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Posts Tagged ‘example’

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Jerusalem had already been invaded by Babylon by the time the account of Jeremiah chapter 35 was written.  God calls Jeremiah to point at a specific, obscure group known as the Rechabites, and set their example before the still-erring Jews.

The Rechabites’ example was that of obedience.  Their fathers had forbidden them to drink wine or to build permanent houses.  Their dwelling was to be in tents – dry ones at that!  Both restrictions points these people to less worldly comfort and more trust in the Lord.  And dads know that when you want your kids to know how to deal with difficult days to come, you do something to train those disciples on the not so difficult days.

So the Rechabites, who had always lived in tents outside the city, could no longer, not because they were vow-breaking rebels, but because of the siege and the lack of safety around the city.  Half of their vow was broken.  But the other half – the one that said they were to drink no wine – was dutifully kept.

That’s when the Lord told Jeremiah to bring this group into God’s house.  His task?  To offer the non-wine drinking vowers what? You guessed it: wine.  Now why on earth would God do something like that?

Because these men presently could not fulfill the whole of their vow, God uses Jeremiah to test them.  Did you get that?  God used the prophet to test the obedient people.  But why?  God knew they would be faithful.  The prophet knew they would be faithful.  What’s the point?

Unlike the tests the Lord places upon us, here we see the reason for his presentation of the temptation toward them.  God wants to use their unfailing dedication to an earthly father to contrast it with those who have so fully refused to obey their Heavenly Father.  God wants his own people to see how diligent and how serious the Rechabites were about their earthly vow, their respect for their earthly father, who, by the way was already dead no less, and shame them for their very blatant disobedience to Himself.

God here publicly honors those obedient men before the disobedient ones in an effort to show and even shame them into doing what they ought for their own well-being.  God ain’t too proud to beg when it comes to his kids’ correction and ultimate welfare.  No good dads are.

And we get from this that God can and surely does use men and women who are wiling to obey and respect the instruction of earthly authorities.  God can and surely does use men and women that are willing to be set apart in specific personal sacrifices if they are simple and sincere in them and not serving the sin of asceticism.

Not all abstainers are ascetics and not all ascetics practice obedient abstinence.  It is imperative that we know and understand the difference lest we fail to learn from the full fruit of faithful obedience OR forgo the freedom we have in the gospel’s foundation, depending on the side on which we err.

For the Jews, Jeremiah was shining the spotlight on these father-obeyers in order to help them figure out their own foolishness.  God was simply trying to show them up so that they would rightly see themselves.  He was not saying stay away from wine and still-standing houses like the Rechabites.  He was saying start seeing what real sacrificial servant-hood and staying still in obedience really looks like.

You see, people get confused when they see what they assume are ascetics.  Some are ascetics- and certainly to their own self-sufficient detriment.  But this was not about them.  This was about the ones who look down on all who are decidedly and drastically different.  It was about their desperate need to see the difference between their own lack of discipline and the ones who have done their duty well.

And the bonus was that the ones who got the light shined on them were proven faithful.  Because so many times when we are tried and tempted we tend to think it’s because we are not favored and even become fearful.  Not so.  Truth be told, it didn’t really have much to even do with them.  They were just the instrument used.  God proved their position and their power in Him by making them a beacon to the bad guys.

Did the Jews repent and do right after being shown the strict example of right-doers?  No.  They didn’t.  But God gave due proof of his dedication to them in this way.

 

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example

Jeremiah chapter 16 gives us a glimpse of God’s seriousness with his chosen vessel.  Not only had God called Jeremiah to continually speak hard words to his friends, family, and neighbors, but God now calls the prophet to abstain from several very basic human interactions.

In chapter 16, God forbids the prophet to marry, to mourn, or to celebrate with his people.  These conditions were to be a sign of the dismal future for God’s people.  God told Jeremiah that if he disobeyed, his future wife and children would surely die and be left in the street without burial.

How would you like it if your very life was to be the sign that the words God was telling you to preach were true?  Oh, wait.  It is.  Always.  Let that sink in a minute.

Ouch.  So, Jeremiah, since they don’t regard what you (or I) say, let’s see if they will heed the warnings evidenced in what you do.

Do not get married.  Do not have children.  Do not mourn for them when they mourn.  Do not comfort them.  Do not rejoice with them.  Do not celebrate with them.  And we know God already told him several times “Do not pray for them.”  Jeremiah was disallowed from consoling the very people he was sent to minister to in their grief.  He was disallowed from rejoicing with them in their prosperity.  Why?  Why would God keep the only true help His people had away from them?

Verse 5 tells the reason he was not permitted to console or comfort them: “…for I have taken away my peace from this people, my steadfast love and mercy…”

What?!  Is this the same God that sent his Son to die for sinners?  God departed from them because they had long ago departed from Him.

Verse 6 tells us he reason Jeremiah personally could not marry or have children was because heads were about to roll and God wanted to spare his prophet from that pain.  People were about to die in the streets and be left without burial.  God was bringing shame upon them all.

Verse 9 tells us why the prophet was not permitted to celebrate with them.  “…Behold, I will silence in this place, before your eyes and in your days, the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride.” 

No one will lament.  No one will comfort.  No one will celebrate.  This was the judgment for their rebellion. God was stopping their mouths by harshly punishing their sin.  He tells Jeremiah that when they begin to ask, “What did we do?” he is to remind them that their fathers forsook God.  He is to rebuke them saying they had forsaken God even more than their fathers had.  He has to remind them how they refused to listen to God’s ways and instead did evil.  Those were the reasons God was throwing them out of their land and their homes into exile, death, and destruction.

But, thankfully, God doesn’t stop there.  God never stops there.  God, even in the midst of his righteous indignation and discipline, offers hope.  In verse 15 God promises to bring his people back to their land after the judgment.  In verses 16-18 God promises to send fishers and hunters to gather them up and bring them back.  First, though, God is going to pay them back double for their sin.  The end goal in all of this is, however, that they will rightly know His Name.

Three times in verse 21 we find God stating his ultimate purpose for the punishment and subsequent rescue.  Three times he says, “I will make them know (me).”  They will know Him.  God will make them know Him rightly.  They will know His power, His might, and His rightful Name.  Why is that the end game?  Why is that so incredibly important?

God’s people had forgotten Him.  They had forsaken Him.  They had lived as though He did not exist.  They had a facade of faith with a life full of sin lurking just underneath the surface.  God cannot have mercy until sinners have a reckoning; an awakening; a reality check.  Apart from conviction and true repentance, God has only judgement for those who live in rebellion to him.  All the destruction He is bringing upon His people here is a result of their sin, but, more importantly, a very necessary step on the road to His mercy for the remnant whom He will save.  Not only is God still promising deliverance and future hope despite his great, just anger and wrath, God is promising that His people will ultimately rightly know Him – and knowing God rightly is the very thing that saves and keeps any of us.

Matthew Henry says, “Their deliverance out of captivity shall be accompanied with a blessed reformation, and they shall return effectually cured of their inclination to idolatry, which will complete their deliverance and make it a mercy indeed.” Praise God!  In the end, God’s people will know Him rightly and be delivered.  Many will suffer and die as a result of their own sin, but God’s work will prevail.

God uses the prophets to lead by example.  He brings prosperity and creates disaster.  He judges justly and extends mercy.  He makes His people know Him rightly – as LORD.  And knowing God rightly is the only thing that saves and keeps any of us.  Amen.

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change

Once upon a time there lived a man who wanted to change the world for the better.  He wanted to make clear statements about social injustice, the place of politics and government, and help all those who would care to listen and follow his lead on the road that leads to positive change and personal growth.

One by one, the man spoke to others.  He prayed for them.  He got to know them.  He helped them and healed them by simply doing what his father sent him out to do.  Sometimes, he had to correct them because all of them made poor choices and bad decisions at one point or another.

After some time, many began to follow him.  Others began to hate him.  Some were not sure and watched from the sidelines as he continued to amaze and overcome the entire world as they knew it.  Eventually, he was murdered out of jealousy by those he offered nothing more than love and friendship.

I am not one much for arguing politics, football, presidents, or protests.  I believe presenting and arguing for the truth of the gospel and applying it practically is where all battles are truly won.  Bringing clarity from the scriptures is the only way to rightly diagnose and treat the condition of sick, angry, erring human hearts.

The state our nation is in is shameful and not one of us can point the finger at another for our wretched condition.  It is time to stop complaining and blaming and start doing the simple things that lead to change.  If every single person that had an opinion about what football players were doing about the National Anthem yesterday was working to better their own community somehow, help their neighbors, and be a light in the world we wouldn’t be having this conversation.  You know why?  Because we would all be too busy doing good to care what a bunch of overpaid hypocrites did or didn’t do with their influence, their money, and their game playing.  Change starts with you.  It is does not start with the president, your boss, your kids, your church, your husband, your wife, your mother, your father, or a football team.  None of their decisions are your decisions.  Your decisions decide what kind of influence you will bring to the table of this world.  Focus on that.

As far as the actions of others, namely football players on September 24, 2017, say the truth.  Give your two cents and then work to be the kind of person you want others to be.  Truth be told, for most people watching this whole charade, the reason they are kneeling is largely unclear.  They claim to be standing up for social justice but all the world sees is grown men sitting down, hiding out in locker rooms, and refusing to participate in what most of the country still believes is a gesture of great importance, respect, and honor.  The last time I checked, standing up for what you believe did not involve staying hidden from view when you do so.  Not only that, but can a large group of multimillionaires not find anything more helpful and altruistic to do for those they claim to be kneeling down in support of than igniting outrage in people who just showed up to watch football?

I do not care which side of the debate you are on, cowardice is cowardice.  If you need to stand, stand.  If you need to kneel, kneel.  But there is no respect for a person or a group of people who claim to want to make a statement about unity, hide while making it, and, in so-doing knowingly divide their audience.

We live in a culture where abstaining from difficult conversation, debate, critical thinking, and honest reasoning together is obsolete and has even become taboo.  Avoidance, silent treatments, and the lack of accountability are the things that will ultimately destroy what is left of the solid foundation of this country.  Recognize that.  Change it in your own life and relationships.  Talk about hard things without shutting differing opinions out.  Debate important issues without becoming enemies.  Pray for those who fail to see what is true.  Serve everyone.  Live to love even when you are hated.  Read the gospel and then read it again.  Preach and teach the gospel.  Make disciples.  Jesus Christ showed us exactly what to do in the midst of this kind of hostility.  He was willing to shed his own blood so that others could be free.  Kind of sounds like the guys who fought for the symbol in question.  Stop bending your knee in protest and start laying down your life in love.  Go.

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practical

In Colossians chapter 1 Paul emphasized the supremacy of Christ.  In chapter 2 he told the Colossians what not to do and whose example not to follow.  Chapter 3 is full of practical instructions on how to follow and serve Christ.  Let’s let the format of Colossians sink in, teachers and preachers.  There is great wisdom in leading the church this way – especially in a culture where everyone has their own opinion and instruction on what being a Christian looks like.  Here’s how Paul demonstrates:

1. Preach the gospel; magnify Christ

2. Debunk heresy, false teachers, and misinformation that is plaguing the church within your culture.  Be specific.

3.  Give practical, specific instructions for the persons you are ministering to.  I cannot stress this point enough.  Be practical. Be practical.  Be practical.  Do not stop teaching at #1.  Do not stop teaching at #2.  Be practical.

Since I have come to the second portion of Paul’s practical instruction, I have to stress the dire importance of not only these particular instructions, but equally importantly, these kind of instructions.  They are invaluable to those listening.

Today I will talk about why practical teaching is so important and tomorrow I will deal with the specifics of this text.

Many men have amazing theological minds.  They are well read and can answer almost any Bible question one might have.  They preach the gospel in its entirety and do so very systematically and extremely well.  They tell you who Christ is, what he did, and urge repentance.  They refute false ideas.  They tell you what Christianity is as well as what it is not.

Consider yourself unduly blessed if you can find a preacher or teacher like this in our culture of confusion and misinformation in the church today.  Still, if door #3 – specific, practical application – is left unopened by that good man or woman, the sheep are still left meandering for their own food on many occasions.  When we are told what to do but not how to do it, nine times out of ten we do not “get it.”  If I do not know how you apply the text in your life, I often do not know how to apply the text in my life.  Tell  me.  In so doing, you teach me.

 Sheep need stories, parables, personal accounts of when and how these truths were learned and understood by our teachers.  Otherwise, as my very practical, straight-shooting mechanic husband says, it feels a lot like someone is trying to tell us how to build a shelf.  We have step by step codified instructions, but we do not have a model.  There is no hammer in our hands.  No nails or screws with which to build.  All we have is a how to lecture and Mr. Vila and all his tools and example models have left the building.

Sheep need practical application.  Sheep need for instances.  Sheep need not only a picture of the finished framework of what the end result is supposed to look like, but also a picture of all the half built stages in between.  When we set out to put this thing called Christianity together, we need a lot of help – especially if there have been no close master builders in our lives.

Therefore, I cannot stress Paul’s example enough.  After preaching the gospel, what it is and what it is not, we must tell others how to apply it.  We must tell about when we fail.  We must tell about what overcoming has looked like in our own lives.  We must be specific and practical in preaching and teaching.

Colossians 3:17-25 is practical application of that which Paul has just painted with a broad brush.  He told his readers to set their minds on the things above and to forsake sin.  He told them to be compassionate, humble, forgiving, loving, and unified.  He said to do everything for Christ.

Now, he puts some practical flesh on the bones of his outline of spiritual disciplines.  Here’s what he says:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. 22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters,not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.

Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.

Here are some real life situations, guys.  Here are the most common and important relationships you are all in.  Here’s how to act in those relationships.  Here’s how not to act.  Here’s why.

Wives, submit.  Husbands, love.  Children, obey.  Fathers, be patient.  Slaves, obey.  All of you, work hard, always.  Masters, be fair.  God will bless.  God will repay.  Trust him.

I will go further into what these instructions look like in our lives in my next article…practically.   I believe Paul did not go further because his words needed to be timeless.

That’s our job.  That’s our job.  That’s our job.

 It is the job of a good teacher to apply the Biblical text to their cultural situations and problems.  The reason we have so many knowledge infused non-action taking Christians is because we often fail to give practical instructions.  We go through the text and we stop.  We cannot afford to do that.  Christians need challenged in very specific ways.  We need very clear pictures of what a submitting wife and a loving husband looks like.  We need very clear pictures of what a rebellious wife and a loveless husband looks like.  We must use every means available.  Yes, we are the very pictures ourselves.  We are witnesses.  But we must also open our mouths and share our lives lest we live them in obscurity and fail to bring glory to Christ clenching tightly to our illegitimate right to privacy.

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