Wednesday, February 16, 2005

An "A" Is Stll An "A"

“Pilate therefore said to Him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.’ Pilate said to Him, ‘What is truth?’” John 18:37-38

During the decade of the ‘60s one trend was all the philosophizing about truth. Is there such thing as absolutes? Is truth relative? Can your truth be different than my truth on the same subject and still be valid?Logos, in Greek philosophy, is not a personal being, but a sort of ‘controlling principle’, issuing forth from God to direct the circumstances of your life. This is one of the misconceptions John was addressing in the first chapter of his gospel.

John declared the “Logos” was none other than Jesus Christ. So I suppose, if this universal principle is the same for everyone, but it guides each life down a different path, then that would make it possible to believe that your truth is as good and valid as my truth. No wonder Pilate was confused! What is truth? When he asked this question of Jesus, it was not in frustration or despair, as though wondering if truth could be found; truth that would finally put his restless and weary heart to rest. He was saying it in sarcasm! ‘You say banana, I say baa-naa-naa’. It was the attitude that might have been expressed by saying, “Truth! You’ve got your truth, and I’ve got mine! What does that have to do with anything?”Pilate stood in the presence of Truth, and asked, “What is truth?” And he received no answer, because he wasn’t really looking.

Annas, the High Priest emeritus, in his arrogance, wanted Jesus to defend His teachings. But he wasn’t looking for truth. Pilate stood staring Truth in the face, and asked, “what is truth?” But he didn’t want to know. Herod wanted Him to do a miracle for his entertainment. But he didn’t want to know the truth. The thief on the cross reviled and chided Jesus, challenging Him, if He was the Messiah, to save them both. But he didn’t want to know the truth. The angry crowd standing below the cross mocked and said, “He saved others, He cannot save Himself”. But they didn’t want to know the truth.

You see, truth calls for commitment. To know the truth about any given matter, requires a decision of some sort from the recipient of truth. And only in obeying truth can one walk in truth. “Thy word is a light unto my feet and a lamp unto my pathway.” One must see where he is (feet) to know where he is going (pathway). For instance, once one is confronted with the salvation truth of Acts 2:38 and that person fails to be obedient to that truth then the walk of truth is endangered. To obey is better than sacrifice!

The story is told of a man who came to visit his old friend, a music teacher. As the man came in, he said, “What’s the good news today?” The old teacher was silent as he stood up and walked across the room. He picked up a small hammer and struck a tuning fork. As the note sounded throughout the room, he said, “That is ‘A.’ It is ‘A’ today; it was ‘A’ 5,000 years ago, and it will be ‘A’ 10,000 years from now. The soprano upstairs sings off-key, the tenor across the hall flats on his high notes, and the piano downstairs is out of tune.” He struck the note again and said, “That is ‘A,’ my friend, and that’s the good news for today!”

In a day when we are surrounded and bombarded constantly by a jumbled, cacophony of useless and meaningless noise, let the one true sound go forth; the sound of Truth Himself, Jesus Christ, The Almighty God, bearing witness to the truth, and declaring, “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice”


Friday, February 11, 2005

Standards In A Non-Standard World

The "Ten Commandments" have been a topic of much discussion over the past several years. They seem to always be ending up in a court somewhere. Most of the time it’s because they are being found unconstitutional, as in the recent case in the courtroom of Judge Jennifer Coffman. She ruled that, not only are the Ten Commandments unconstitutional, but that the displays of all historic documents in eastern Kentucky schools and courthouses were unconstitutional and had to be removed. Her reason: "they had the effect of conveying a very specific governmental endorsement of religion."

It seems that most of our historic documents have some reference to God in them somewhere. I find it odd that they are being found unconstitutional since they are the very basis of our laws. Some courts still remember that. You might remember that Roy S. Moore, a judge in Alabama, fought (and lost) to keep a stylized copy of the Ten Commandments posted in his courtroom, much to the consternation of some civil libertarians. People fight over their legality mostly because they are largely ignorant of what they are, what they mean, and why they’re so important. In fact, most people can’t tell you more than these two: "Thou shalt not kill" and "Thou shalt not steal." Some people think they’re obsolete. Ted Turner thinks they are. A few years ago he offered a substitute he called the "ten voluntary initiatives." People who don’t understand their importance say the Ten Commandments are "old, archaic, immaterial rules of a primitive culture." They say they have no relevance to us at all. Sometimes Christians have been guilty of promoting this belief, pointing out that they are part of the "old way" God dealt with people. They surely can’t apply to all of us who are under "grace."

So, what are the Ten Commandments about? Primarily, we see them as God’s moral law. We look at the Ten Commandments as God’s guidelines for our lives. Here are Ten Rules to live by that will keep you in good graces with God, or so we think. Fact is that we can’t keep the Ten Commandments. We will always fall short of the mark. That’s why grace is so important. God had something else in mind when He gave Moses the Ten Commandments. The Bible says: Romans 3:20: "Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin." Romans 5:13: "...for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law." Romans 7:7: "What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, "Do not covet."

We can look at the Ten Commandments as God’s guidelines for living, but The Bible says that God gave the law to reveal the fact that man is a sinner. Do you want to know why there is such a ruckus about posting the Ten Commandments? It’s because they reveal sin. That makes us uncomfortable. And all that negative stuff is just not good for our self-esteem. We will do anything to hide from our sin. But God still sees it. God wants us to see it. Finding the Standard in a Nonstandard World. "And God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me."

There is an important word in verse 1: "all". God spoke all these words. Moses makes it a point to let us know that none of this was his idea. You’re not going to find his opinion here. What follows is God’s word and that’s it. No commentary, no explanation.Nothing except what God has to say to his people. It’s sort of an attention getter that says everything that follows is very, very important so you better listen carefully.There’s another important thing to remember. God says, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." He wasn’t talking to the entire world when he said that. He was talking to his chosen people. Doesn’t it bother you just a little bit to know that he didn’t give these commandments to everyone? Doesn’t seem quite fair, does it? We expect everyone to follow these rules but they were given to us...God’s chosen people...the people he brought out of the land of slavery. And you do know we were slaves to sin. We want everyone to follow these rules, but they just don’t apply to everyone.

They don’t apply to everyone because not everyone recognizes their sin. Paul says, "I would not have known what sin was except through the law." Do you think that maybe, just maybe, this might be one way God makes us confront our own sin? Conventional wisdom says that there are no absolutes in life. Everything is relative; there is no absolute truth. And, since there is no absolute truth there can be no "one God." For the conventional world, that is absolutely true. Remember, God gave the law to His people. He is our God. Or is he? He says he is "the Lord your God." What does Lord mean? Lord means "one possessed of absolute control." It denotes a master; one with absolute authority over another.

God is the master; we are his subjects. He is the shepherd; we are the sheep. Have you ever seen a herd of sheep leading the shepherd? Probably not, but how often do we try to lead God in the direction we want to go? Why do we do that? Could it be that we have placed other gods before THE GOD? Now, I know we are all shaking our heads and saying, "No, I worship the only true God." But what about that god of self? How many of us are guilty of placing our desires and our opinions before God? There’s an old saying that "everybody has an opinion about everything." Could it be that we have fallen prey to the world’s wisdom that says, "You can have it your way"? Could it be that what we really want is to be our own god and have other little gods around to help us out when we need it? Could it be that we have become so self absorbed that we don’t even recognize how we rebel and challenge the ultimate authority of God in our lives? The message that the world screams is that we will find ultimate peace and fulfillment if we will only buy this or eat that or go there or look this way or do this or do that. The world, the ones who don’t know any better, buys into this reasoning without a thought. And so do we. We live in a land where Self is Sovereign, where people believe that there are "many roads" to salvation, to happiness, to meaning in life. Where definitions of what is "right", "good", "bad", and "evil" are left up to individuals to create on the fly. Where "being spiritual" means you can believe in anything you want as long as it doesn’t interfere with someone else’s happiness.

We live in a world where anyone who suggests that there ought to be one set of specific moral rules for everybody is chided as being "narrow-minded" and "intolerant." We are living in the days described by the Apostle Paul in his letter to Timothy: "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." (2 Timothy 4:3-4) When God is removed as the rule-maker, the limit-setter, then anything and everything goes. We have begun to create God in our own image and remove Him as the sole authority in life so that we can make ourselves feel good, enlightened, and happy but the truth is that we will never feel good, enlightened or happy until we put God back in his rightful place as the "Lord your God." Saying you believe in "the Lord your God" is easy. Living like you believe it is the most difficult thing you will ever do. Finding the standard in a nonstandard world is easy. Look to Jesus Christ—look to the Word.

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Cost?

A prophet once came to a city to convert its inhabitants. At first the people listened to his sermons, but they gradually drifted away until there was not a single soul to hear the prophet when he spoke. One day a traveler said to him, "Why do you go on preaching?" Said the prophet, "In the beginning I hoped to change these people. If I still shout, it is only to prevent them from changing me."

Our separation from the world through biblical standards and principles are non-negotiable. We will not negotiate with the world to become more acceptable by lowering our holiness lifestyle. Daniel proved that His service to God was not for sale. Daniel was a servant to Jehovah first, to the king next. Daniel refused to even deviate from His devotional schedule to accommodate for the risk he put his life in.

Where does your service for God fall? When you have time for it? When the boss is satisfied? When the family is satisfied? God is looking for men like Daniel who are sold-out for God. Daniel proved that we can serve God without neglecting our secondary commitments. The three Hebrew children best exemplifies this principle in their statement to the King: Dan. 3:17,18 "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."

No matter the consequences, their faith still stands as non-negotiable. Are you willing to have a faith that may cost you? Cost Moses Pharaoh’s Palace and authority. Cost the Apostle Paul his position and reputation as a Pharisee. Cost Jesus His Life.


Jesus describes this attitude in the parable of the “Pearl Of Great Price”. We will never effectively serve God, until the Kingdom Of God is worth surrendering everything else in our lives. Daniel and the three Hebrew children valued the God they served more than their lives. Daniel had to be a firm believer that the path he had chosen was the best path and so must we. He trusted the path he had chosen and it brought blessing to his life. All that life needs to be for us is wrapped up in a single package: Jesus Christ. He’s all the direction we ever needed: He is THE WAY. He’s all the revelation we ever needed: He is THE TRUTH. He’s all the fulfillment we ever needed: He is THE LIFE.