The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

Does the punishment fit the crime? As a society we frequently ask that very question about criminal cases in the news. We are appalled at the light sentences given to abusers, pedophiles, drunk drivers, rapists, murderers, and the like. We are aggravated and disgusted when victims are treated like criminals and criminals appear to have more rights than their victims. We sense there is something inherently wrong, unjust, when we see such things. When the sentence doesn’t fit the crime it has a destabilizing effect on society. But I would like to apply this question to an even more important area, eternity. Will God actually sentence people to hell? Does His eternal punishment fit the crime of our sin? Are we guilty of crimes of sin deserving of a sentence of hell?

At present atheism seems to be going through a cycle of popularity in society. But those who do accept the existence of God, (and statistically they still remain in the majority) frequently doubt that God would send anyone to hell. They may accept that God would send those to hell who are guilty of the most heinous crimes, but they don’t see themselves as that bad. In general people feel they will be good enough to get into heaven and avoid hell.

In a 2003 Barna study on people’s opinions about heaven and hell they found the following:

76% believe that Heaven exists, while nearly the same proportion said that there is such a thing as Hell (71%). . . .

Most Americans do not expect to experience Hell first-hand: just one-half of 1% expect to go to Hell upon their death. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) believe they will go to Heaven. One in 20 adults (5%) claim they will come back as another life form, while the same proportion (5%) contend they will simply cease to exist.

Even though most Americans believe in life after death and the existence of the soul, not everyone is clear about their own ultimate destination. One in every four adults (24%) admitted that they have ”no idea” what will happen after they die. Those who felt their eternal future is undefined were most likely to be Hispanics, singles, men, atheists and agnostics, residents of the West, and 18- and 19-year-olds (i.e., young adults who also happen to be the first members of the Mosaic generation to enter adulthood).

Among those who expect to go to Heaven, there were differences in how they anticipate such an end would be attained. Nearly half of those who say they are Heaven bound (43%) believe they will go to Heaven because they have "confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior." Others felt they will get to Heaven because "they have tried to obey the 10 Commandments" (15%) or because "they are basically a good person" (15%). Another 6% believed their entrance to Heaven would be based upon the fact that "God loves all people and will not let them perish." [1]

The majority of people believe in a heaven and a hell. Supposedly 43% accept the gospel, i.e. “confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior” as means of going to heaven. But there is a majority (approximately 57%) of people who are unclear about what determines their destiny. Those who choose to reject the gospel say their eternal destination is based on one of three things: keeping the Law of the Ten Commandments, their basic goodness; or a view of God that disallows a sentence to a place called hell. What does God say about this? What does He tell us in His word?

The first thing we need to consider is what has God revealed about Himself in His word? God is holy and He commands His followers to be holy (Lev. 11:44-45; 1 Peter 1:15-16). God’s revelation of Himself says He has an aversion, a revulsion to sin:

· Habakkuk 1:13a - You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness.

God states that sin separates us from Him (Isaiah 59:1-2). The Bible says if we allow sin to reside in our hearts God will not hear our prayers (Psalm 66:18). The Bible says God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). God and sin do not mix.

What is hell? Hell is a place created by God for the devil and demons (Mat. 25:41). It is a real place. The Bible also says the person who sins, “is of the devil” (1 John 3:8; cf. also Eph. 2:1-3). The wicked or sinners will be turned into hell (Psalm 9:17). God will cast the sinner into hell and therefore we ought to revere Him (Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5). Hell is a place of everlasting fire, punishment and torment where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Mat. 25:41, 46; Rev. 19:20). Though not created by God for people, those who sin will be cast there to join the devil and his demons (Rev. 21:8).

What is sin? God has given us a Book called the Bible which is a manual for life. This Book explains the problem of sin and its solution. This Book explains God has given us laws that explain how we can experience prosperity, blessing, fullness of life (Joshua 1:8; 1 Chron. 22:13). God’s law consists of rules, principles, statutes, and God’s judgments. God’s laws tell us the parameters of what He says right and wrong is. Living within the parameters of His word and law is righteousness. Living righteously (i.e. keeping the law) assures we will experience life as He created us to live it. It will also assure that we don’t harm others. Sin is breaking God’s law in word, deed or thought. John put it this way, “All unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17a). Sin beaks our relationship with God. Sin causes pain in our relationship with others, including God.

What does sin look like? In Exodus 20 God gave Moses the Ten Commandments. These ten laws of God given to His people serve as the summation of His Law. There were 613 lesser laws given but the Ten Commandments serve as the bedrock of the Law of God. These Ten can be described as:

1. Not having any other God’s except Almighty God.

2. Do not make any images or idols of God or any other gods.

3. Respect God’s name; don’t use it in vain.

4. Keep the Sabbath.

5. Honor your parents.

6. Don’t murder anyone.

7. Don’t commit adultery; stay true to your marriage covenant.

8. Don’t steal anything.

9. Don’t lie or bear false witness against anyone.

10. Don’t covet.

Sin is when we break such laws. All sin is against God and His Law (Psalm 51:4). The first four are vertical and directly against God while the last six are horizontal and indirectly against God but directly against other people.

What is the penalty for breaking these laws? The penalty for breaking God’s laws is death. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23a). God says, “Behold. All souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4). It’s at this point that some might respond, “Isn’t that harsh? Does the punishment fit the crime? Isn’t God loving?” Yes, God is loving, but God is also holy, just and righteous. God is of purer eyes than to look on wickedness. Breaking or disregarding His law is rooted in pride, rebellion and is wickedness. “Wickedness” as spoken of by prophet Habakkuk means acts of deceit, treachery, faithlessness (Habakkuk 1:13). God will not even look at such things; He will put them out of His presence.

Does the punishment of God fit the crime of sin? Let’s examine this a bit. Let’s pretend we are in a secular worldly court. The judge is just a regular human being in a position of authority. Before him is brought a man who has disrespected, rebelled against and murdered his parents, has murdered numerous other people, has committed adultery on numerous occasions, has stolen repeatedly, has lived the life of deception and is a compulsive liar, and is driven by a lust for more of what he already has enough of. In addition to that this criminal is disrespectful and disobedient toward the judge. He curses the name of the judge and won’t rest and calm down when the judge orders him to. What would you say about such a man? What would a just sentence for him be? He’s a parenticidal, homicidal, sex crazed, thieving, lying, lustful man. If anyone was due the death sentence certainly he would be!

But you say, “That’s not me! I’m not that bad.” The Bible warns us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Rom. 12:3). The Bible says we should examine and test ourselves to see where we stand with God (2 Cor. 13:5). Let’s do that.

Have you always honored your parents? We may respond that there have been times when we’ve dishonored or rebelled against our parents but not always. Maybe you are in rebellion against your parents now. Maybe you’ve rebelled against them in the past. How much rebellion against your parents can be equated with dishonoring them? Any amount! But what about parenticide? You say, “I haven’t killed my parents. I’m not that bad.” Jesus said that if you’re angry with someone or call them a fool or something equivalent to that it’s as though you’ve killed them in your heart (Mat. 5:21-26). That’s His standard of judgment. Have you ever been angry with your parents? Parenticide!

Ever murdered someone? Here we are not talking about killing of a human being in the line of duty such as with a policeman or military person. Here we are talking about murder. And again, Jesus’ standard equates anger with murder. Ever get angry with someone? Murderer! Probably a mass murderer!

How about adultery? Ever commit adultery. “Oh no, I’ve always been faithful to my spouse” you say. But Jesus’ standard here is higher than mere actions too. He said if we even have a lustful thought about someone we are guilty of committing adultery in our hearts (Mat. 5:27-30). Even have a lustful thought, a fantasy, anything about anyone anytime other than the one you are married to? This includes those who are single. Ever have a lustful thought? Adulterer!

Ever stolen anything, anything, anytime? How much do you have to steal to be considered a thief? Anything, even a paper clip that makes you a thief. How about lying; ever spoken a non-truth? Ever lied about your age, your weight, your income, your past, your present, ever lied at all? Liar! Ever wanted something someone else has? Ever wanted more of what you already have enough of? Ever yearned for something, lusted after it? Coveter!

So far we’re finding we’re not as different from our imaginary criminal as we thought ourselves to be. We’re finding we’re parenticidal, homicidal, sex crazed, thieving, lying, lustful just like that man. We haven’t even considered our relation to a Judge who is God Almighty, All Holy, perfectly just and righteous. Has He always been first and foremost in our lives; our thoughts and actions; our priorities? If not that’s blasphemy. Have we idolized God? Have we defined Him as we see Him or want to see Him rather than how He has revealed Himself to be in truth? Your God is your master passion. If anything takes priority in our lives besides God we’ve broken the second commandment. That’s idolatry. How about the way we have referred to God? Ever used His name as a four letter curse word? Ever referred to Him and used His name in a profane way, even a common or irreverent way? If so that’s taking the Lord’s name in vain; that’s disrespecting the God of glory! How about observing His Sabbath? Some will say, “Oh, that’s just for Jewish people.” But wait, the Sabbath of God is holy and there is a principle here. To rest on the Sabbath is a demonstration of faith and trust in God to provide for you. We rest trusting that God will supply our needs. The Bible says whatever is not done in faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). God has done so much for you, He has been so faithful and true, and will you distrust Him? That’s offensive to God.

So to the charges of parenticidal, homicidal, sex crazed, thieving, lying, and lust we can add the highly offensive to God charges of blasphemy, idolatry, profane use of God’s name and distrust of God to our ledger. Now, do you see a bit more how the death penalty for sin is appropriate? The wages of sin is death. The soul that sins is deserving of death. And death here is not annihilation. The death sentence here is an eternal sentence of existence in a place called hell; a place of darkness, loneliness, regret and torment. That is a just sentence for the sinner.

If you were to stand before God charged with such offenses would He pronounce you guilty or innocent? Does that matter to you? If it doesn’t matter to you I would like to give you further warning. In the gospels Jesus performed countless miracles and taught powerful truth. The religious of His day refused to heed His words or acknowledge His work. There came a point where they could not believe (John 12:35-41). Refusing to respond to God leads to hardening of your heart. The more you refuse to turn to God from your sin the harder your heart becomes and the harder it is for you to do so. Only God knows when a person reaches this point of no return. But why risk getting to that point?

What can we do about our sinful state? The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). The Bible states:

· Acts 17:30-31 - Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

There is a Judgment Day coming. You may have been ignorant of your sin predicament before but you aren’t now. Where do you stand with God?

Let me say first that salvation from sin is not a matter of keeping the laws of God. God’s law exposes our sinfulness and shows us the futility of trying to keep them in our own strength (Rom. 7:7). The law shows us we are sinful (1 Tim. 1:8-11). And the law in pointing out our sin also leads us to the solution for our sin problem, Jesus (Gal. 3:24).

God calls everyone to repent of their sin. To repent means to respond to God, to turn to Him. To repent means to have a change of heart that leads to a change in life action. No one can come to God unless God draws them to Himself (John 6:44). God has been reaching out to you. The Holy Spirit has been convicting you of your sin (John 16:8-11). “All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth” (Psalm 25:10). The truth is you are guilty as sin before a Holy God. But God is merciful. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. He has made a way for you to be justly forgiven. He has made a way for you to have your sins wiped away so that it will be just as if you’ve never sinned (e.g. Rom. 5:1). He has made a way for you to replace death with spiritual eternal life. He has done all of this through Jesus Christ.

The Man ordained or anointed and chosen by God to make the way for salvation from sin is Jesus Christ. Jesus went to the cross for you and for me; for sinners. Jesus lived a life of perfect and without sin (1 Pet 1:18-19). He died on the cross, the just for the unjust, to pay our death penalty for us (1 Pet 3:18). “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). That can happen when we put our faith in Him. It isn’t a matter of us doing some good works or religious activity (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). Jesus has done the work for us; the work of salvation is compete; “It is finished!” (John 19:30). We need to receive by faith what God has provided for us in Christ.

God who is Holy is also gracious and loving. Humanity has a humanly insurmountable debt of sin. But God has made a divine way for lost humanity to be redeemed from that debt of sin. He has made a way for humanity to be saved from their sin by sending His One and only Son Jesus to die on the cross in our place. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). This work of Jesus has been shown to be valid and completely satisfactory to God by His resurrection from the dead. Therefore this work of Jesus for salvation can be put to our account; we can be forgiven all our sin (past, present, even future sin) when we put our faith in Jesus as our Savior. The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10). The saving transaction is put to our account by faith. It is offered by God freely to us by His grace and appropriated to our account by faith. God’s grace is God’s Redemption at Christ’s Expense. The faith that saves us is Forsaking All (other alternatives) I Trust Him. Salvation is not about something we do, it is all about accepting by faith something Jesus has done for us.

Salvation is freely provided by God but it wasn’t cheap; it cost Christ His life. We justly deserve the death penalty. In His mercy God makes a way so that we can avoid the death sentence we deserve. But God goes beyond that and gives us what we don’t deserve, His precious promises of a personal eternal relationship with Him. Jesus said eternal life was knowing Him and the Father (John 17:3). The Bible says:

· Philippians 4:19 - And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

God promises to meet all our needs.

· 2 Peter 1:3-4 - 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

God promises to change us and make us like Jesus (cf. also Rom. 8:29; 1 Pet. 2:21; 1 John 2:6). And you know what else? When we accept Jesus as Savior by faith, God forgive our sin, but He also gives us spiritual life by indwelling us with the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9-11). When the Holy Spirit indwells us He pours His love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5). And this love, lived out in and through us, fulfills God’s law! (Rom. 13:10). Those are incredible truths. Jesus promises us abundant life (John 10:10). The appropriate response to God’s grace is to receive it and love God for it (Jon 1:12; 2 Cor. 5:1-16).

Think of it, justice is getting what you deserve. Mercy is not getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Does the punishment fit the crime? Is God fair with us? What do you think now? God is incredibly loving and giving. In light of Holy God the more important question is do we deserve God’s grace? The answer is no we do not. But thank God that He gives it to us anyway. Thank God our salvation is contingent on Him and not us. Now, what will you do? I hope you will turn to God in Christ and be saved.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Blame Me Not

Ye call me Master and obey me not,
Ye call me Light and see me not;
Ye call me Way and walk not;
Ye call me Life and desire me not;
Ye call me Wise and follow me not;
Ye call me Fair and love me not;
Ye call me Rich and ask me not;
Ye call me Eternal and seek me not;
Ye call me Gracious and trust me not;
Ye call me Noble and serve me not;
Ye call me Mighty and honor me not;
Ye call me Just and fear me not;
If I condemn you BLAME ME not!
- Author Unknown

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Walking By Sight and Not By Faith - Part 2

2 Corinthians 5:7 - For we walk by faith, not by sight.

Abraham presents a holy contrast to Lot. Lot walked by sight. Abraham walked by faith in God. The way these two walked made all the difference in the world. We find this contrast in walks most vividly presented in Genesis. In Genesis God blessed both Abraham and Lot. Their flocks were growing. Abraham’s and Lot’s herdsmen began to fight and it became apparent they need to part ways. Abraham man of faith in full surrender to God’s will gave Lot the choice of the land. How did Lot make his choice? It says, “Lot lifted his eyes and saw . . .” (Gen. 13:10). Abraham made his decision by faith. He surrendered his rights as the elder and superior to his nephew Lot and let Lot decide what land he would move to. Lot had no reservations about taking advantage of his uncle’s humble spirited offer. He looked around and walked by sight.

Walking by sight got Lot into a lot of trouble. He found himself in the middle of a conflict and had to be rescued by Abraham (Gen. 14). Walking by sight got Lot closer and closer to the sin city of Sodom and ultimately to within a hair’s breadth of God’s fire and brimstone judgment on the Sodomites (Gen. 19). Abraham, man of faith, on the other hand, trusted God to bring victory in a righteous rescue mission of his nephew even though he was greatly outnumbered (Gen 14:12-16). He met the Melchizedek, the Christophany (Gen. 14:17-24; John 8:56-59). He had a close personal relationship with God. There is no evidence of that in the life of Lot. Abraham was not without flaws. Twice he lied instead of depending on God (Gen. 12; 20). He gave in to the carnal strategy of his wife Sarah which led to a perpetual conflict of peoples (Gen. 16). And yet with both Abraham and Lot when referred to in the New Testament no mention of these lapses are recorded. It is only said that they were righteous. That is a testament to the grace of God.

God commands us to “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Our problem is that we too often walk by sight and not by faith. We are preoccupied with the way we look or others look physically. We are obsessed with outward appearance. We are like the actor Ricardo Montalbon who used to say, “When you look good you feel good.” Pharisees were obsessed with outward appearance and Jesus rebuked them (Mat. 23:27, 28). God instructs us to look deeper than outward superficialities, to the heart (1 Sam. 16:7; 2 Cor. 10:7).

When Jesus taught about our connection to the things of this world He said:

Matthew 6:19-24 - 19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

There’s a reason why Jesus referred to “the eye” when talking about how we relate to the things of this world. It is through the eye and what we see that we are often tempted to make imbalanced connections or attachments. Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters” which implies its’ possible to become enslaved to the things of this world. That happens when we are lured into a bondage to things by what we see.
The word “mammon” (μαμμωνᾶς - mammōnas mam-mo-nas´, or μαμωνᾶς mamōnas mam-o-nas´) refers to earthly wealth, riches or property. Jesus personifies Mammon here. Because of that some Christians viewed Mammon as a demon. One commentator states:

That wealth can exercise an overwhelming power over people and enslave them is an insight well-known also among Greeks and Romans as is evident from the much-quoted sentence that love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10; cf. for its variants P. W. van der HORST, The Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides [Leiden 1978] 142–143; K. S. FRANK, Habsucht, RAC XIII [1986] 226–247). In some later Christian sources Mamonas is depicted as a demon, ‘wealth’ being personified apparently on the basis of the fact that Luke 16:13 opposes mamonas to God and calls both God and Mammon →kyrioi (see E. PETERSON, Engel- und Personennamen, RhMus NF 75 [1926] 406–69).

It shouldn’t surprise us that a connection would be made between the use of worldly wealth in and enslaving way and demonic activity. Wealth and material goods are easily manipulated by way of seeing them so that they can become alluring to the point of obsession, even addiction. Go shopping on Black Friday or when there is a big sale or a desired valued item is offered in limited quantities and you will see in the eyes of the buyers a narcotic effect. Some commentators have pointed out that there is a god of Mammon, a demonic entity that uses the things of this world and lust for them as a means to lure people away from God.

The words “faith, believe, trust, and genuine belong to the same [word] stem as Mammon.” A choice needs to be made. As Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters . . . You cannot serve God and mammon.” No, we need to follow the instructions of Jesus who introduced these verses with the words, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” We begin our choice by deciding to walk by faith and not by sight. We guard and protect and grow in that choice by seeing with eyes of faith.

When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness he did so by showing Jesus “the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (Mat. 4:8). Of course Jesus didn’t succumb to the temptation to gain all He saw by bowing down in worship to Satan. He responded with the word of God; “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Mat. 4:10). That’s how we should respond and defend against the lust of the eyes. When you walk by faith you will have a Biblical worldview. You will have a spiritual perspective that goes deeper than what is seen on the surface.

Seeing the world through eyes of faith means we look at the world or have a world view that uses the lens of God’s word. And in His word God tells us a few things that we need to recognize if we are to have the proper perspective in life. What are these points of perspective we need to consider?

First, eyes of faith see the truth because God has removed the blinders. The god of this world uses spiritual blindness to keep people from God (2 Cor. 4:4). God on the other hand, by His grace, love and mercy on the sinner, reaches down and lifts the blinders off so that we can see His offer of a better way of looking at things. The Bible states:

Psalm 146:8 - The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous.

This is God’s prevenient grace. This is the work of the Spirit who convicts the world of their sin (John 16:8-11). The Spirit confronts the blinding idolatry of those who walk by sight and concoct a “God” in their own image as they want or desire “God” to be. The sinner creates a mythological “God” that condones the particular sin they cherish and live in. There is a spiritual blindness, a commonness and worldliness where there should be a desire for holiness before the true Holy God of the Bible. The Devil and his demons can only blind people to the truth (John 10:21). Jesus on the other hand opens the eyes of the blind (John 9).
Scripture states:

Proverbs 22:12 - The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge, But He overthrows the words of the faithless.

In other words, if we want to know what reality is really all about, we need to see things with the eyes of the LORD; from God’s perspective.

Second, eyes of faith see that God’s eyes are on us. The Bible says the following in this regard:

2 Chronicles 16:9a - For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. . . . (cf. also Psalm 33:18; 34:15; Proverbs 5:21; 15:3)

God is watching us. He watches and knows what we set our eyes on and how we see life. That’s important to Him. He is looking to bless those whose hearts are loyal to Him, who serve Him and not unrighteous mammon.

Third, eyes of faith see that what we look at impacts our lives. The Bible states:

Proverbs 17:24 - Wisdom is in the sight of him who has understanding, But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.

Proverbs 27:20 - Hell and Destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.

These inspired words tell us that it is foolish to focus on the things of this world. A fool is someone who fails to factor God into their life equation (Psalm 14:1). But focusing on the world is also not good because the person who focuses on the world is “never satisfied.” The end of eyeing the world as the end all of life is emptiness.

Fourth, eyes of faith see that we must one day give an account to God who sees all. The Bible states:

Hebrews 4:13 - And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

God not only sees us, but one day will call all to give an account of who they decided to serve. Those who chose to serve what they see and walk by mere worldly sight will be separated from those who chose to walk by faith in Jesus. The former will spend eternity in hell watching tormenting visions. The later will go on see things that “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

Fifth, eyes of faith take into account how they are seen by others. With this eye opening information from the Lord and His word concerning the way we see things it’s important we also take into account how we are seen by others. If what is seen is so important, then who we present ourselves and are seen by others can influence people toward God or away from God. We should be considerate of what we watch or look at with others. We are living epistles (2 Cor. 3:3). Jesus is the embodiment of the Word. Similarly, we should be God’s word lived out in life. We should present ourselves in a way that people who see us see Jesus. This includes the way we talk, the way we live, the way we work, and even the way we look.

The bottom line is that we are God’s ambassadors; we represent Him (2 Cor. 5:20). We are called to “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). We need to ask ourselves when people see me do they see the world or do they see Jesus?

Sixth, eyes of faith look to Jesus. We need to see things from God’s perspective. We need to have a holy perspective on life. In the Old Testament it states:

Psalm 123:2 - Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the LORD our God, Until He has mercy on us. (cf. also Psalm 145:15)

We need to look to the Lord for direction. We need to look to God to see how He might want us to serve Him. He provides what we really need in life and in eternity. This is brought into more acute focus in the New Testament when it states:

Hebrews 12:1-2 - Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

It states, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Eyes of faith are a work of Jesus in us. He went to the cross to pay the debt of our sin so that when God removed the blinders we would have the most beautiful vision imaginable, a Savior Jesus Christ who made a way for us to be forgiven our sins, enter into an eternal personal saving relationship with God. That’s the perspective, the view, the glorious sight we need to focus and fix our eyes on.

From the early stages of the serpent’s influence to the final stages of his full blown dragonhood, Satan uses sight to steer us away from the Lord and His best for us. The apostle Paul was inspired to say that while people grope in darkness like the blind for meaning that the answer is not far from us (Acts 17:27). God has looked down on our groping in blindness and offered us a holy loving sight to behold, Jesus. Are you walking by sight and not by faith? When people see you, do they see Jesus? Receive God’s offer. Receive your sight from God. Shake off those things that entangle and twist your sight, and look to the Author and Finisher of your faith. Look to Jesus.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Walking By Sight and Not By Faith - Part 1

2 Corinthians 5:7 - For we walk by faith, not by sight.

When the serpent in Eden tempted Eve he did so to a great extent by sight. He got Eve to question God’s word and God’s motives by saying, “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” (Gen. 3:5 - emphasis added). Then it says, “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 tool of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6 – emphasis added).

Television can be a wonderful tool used for the glory of God. But it can also be used for evil influences. This article isn’t a TV bashing piece. I admit that personally, I watch TV, a lot of TV. I get a lot of information from TV and from watching and reading material from the Internet off of a computer screen. But something that I find interesting is how TV, something we see and watch can have such a mesmerizing effect on people. Some people lock in to a program and a bomb cold go off and they still wouldn’t be diverted from their trance like focus on the screen. Studies indicate that watching TV is linked to a negative effect on health.

For decades, research and studies have demonstrated that heavy television-viewing may lead to serious health consequences. Now the American medical community, which has long-voiced its concerns about the nation's epidemic of violence, TV addiction and the passive, sedentary nature of TV-watching, is taking a more activist stance, demonstrated by its endorsement of National TV-Turnoff Week.

The average child will watch 8,000 murders on TV before finishing elementary school. By age eighteen, the average American has seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 40,000 murders. At a meeting in Nashville, TN last July, Dr. John Nelson of the American Medical Association (an endorser of National TV-Turnoff Week) said that if 2,888 out of 3,000 studies show that TV violence is a casual factor in real-life mayhem, "it's a public health problem." The American Psychiatric Association addressed this problem in its endorsement of National TV-Turnoff Week, stating, "We have had a long-standing concern with the impact of television on behavior, especially among children."

Millions of Americans are so hooked on television that they fit the criteria for substance abuse as defined in the official psychiatric manual, according to Rutgers University psychologist and TV-Free America board member Robert Kubey. Heavy TV viewers exhibit five dependency symptoms--two more than necessary to arrive at a clinical diagnosis of substance abuse. These include: 1) using TV as a sedative; 2) indiscriminate viewing; 3) feeling loss of control while viewing; 4) feeling angry with oneself for watching too much; 5) inability to stop watching; and 6) feeling miserable when kept from watching.

Violence and addiction are not the only TV-related health problems. A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey released in October 1995 found 4.7 million children between the ages of 6-17 (11% of this age group) to be severely overweight, more than twice the rate during the 1960's. The main culprits: inactivity (these same children average more than 22 hours of television-viewing a week) and a high-calorie diet. A 1991 study showed that there were an average of 200 junk food ads in four hours of children's Saturday morning cartoons.

According to William H. Deitz, pediatrician and prominent obesity expert at Tufts University School of Medicine, "The easiest way to reduce inactivity is to turn off the TV set. Almost anything else uses more energy than watching TV."

Children are not the only Americans suffering from weight problems; one-third of American adults are overweight. According to an American Journal of Public Health study, an adult who watches three hours of TV a day is far more likely to be obese than an adult who watches less than one hour.

Sometimes the problem is not too much weight; it's too little. Seventy-five percent of American women believe they are too fat, an image problem that often leads to bulimia or anorexia. Sound strange? Not when one takes into account that female models and actresses are twenty-three percent thinner than the average woman and thinner than ninety-five percent of the female population.

People are literally addicted to what they see, in this case, “hooked on television.” It’s apparent that we are being seriously affected for the worse by the things we are watching or seeing on TV. This evidence indicates there is a cause and effect relationship between the things we see and our mental and physical health. When you remove for instance, the Ten Commandments or things pertaining to God from our schools and public arena and replace them with a proliferation of images of immorality, substance abuse, violence and murder and a host of other dark sinful things, is there any real surprise that we have an ever increasing amount of immorality, substance abuse, violence and murder and sinfulness in society? But there is an even more serious effect to consider.

When Babylon is destroyed in the book of Revelation it states, “and they cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning” (Rev. 18:18). When they saw the symbol of worldly wealthy lusts go up in smoke they wept. The apostle John said:

1 John 2:15-17 - 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 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.

In these verses John refers to the “lust of the eyes” and he says it is “not of the Father but is of the world.” The word “lust” (ἐπιθυμία - ĕpithumia, ep-ee-thoo-mee´-ah) speaks of a longing, craving, strong desire or passionate lust. We might even go so far as to see this as a kind of addiction. There is a perverse passionate longing that can characterize the way we look at things. And connecting such lustful looking to the things of this world is not a good thing.

John gives the reason for not buying in to what one sees in this world saying, “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” This world is not going to satisfy. It is temporary. The wisest man to ever live, Solomon, looked at the things of this world separate from God (i.e. “under the sun”) and assessed it as “vanity” or a vapor. He said focusing on this world is like “grasping for the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:17; 2:26). There is a better way. Solomon came to the conclusion that we need God (Eccl. 12:13-14).

As Christians we need to watch what we watch. It’s possible for Christians to be caught up in the lusts of what is around us to see. Satan is going to put stuff out there to tempt and draw us away from the Lord and His best for us. There’s a good example by contrast found in the Old Testament in this regard.

In Peter’s second epistle he speaks of “righteous Lot” and how he was saved by God from judgment and “the filthy conduct of the wicked” (2 Pet. 2:7). Peter states parenthetically, “(for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented His righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)” (2 Pet. 2:8). Lot was righteous according to God’s word. But when we look at the Old Testament account of Lot we see that he walked by sight. That got him in a lot of trouble. Fortunately for him, “the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations . . .’ 92 Pet. 2:9a). Apparently Lot believed in God and, like his uncle Abraham, was accounted righteous because of his trust in God (cf. Gen. 15:6). In the second part of this series we will look further at the contrast between Lot and Abraham as well as discover the way of those who live with eyes of faith.