I was reading through Luke and read where Jesus withdrew himself for a while to pray.
This really convicted me. I don’t spend near enough time withdrawing and praying. So I am going to do just that. I will be away from my computer and my smartphone and my email for a while.
But I wanted to leave you something to think about. What do you think is the greatest problem with our country, our world, our society?
What is the greatest problem with mankind?
I fear that the modern celebrity church sometimes gives the wrong view as to what is wrong with our country.
But the fact is this: The greatest problem in this country is not that there is no prayer in schools. It isn’t the divorce rate. It certainly isn’t foreigners, no matter if they are here legally or not.
It isn’t the homosexual lobby, or the change in cultural values. It isn’t transgender bathrooms and corrupt politicians.
The greatest problem today isn’t lack of Biblical manhood or womanhood, whatever that means. It isn’t colleges teaching Marxism.
The greatest problem, if you are on the other side of the political spectrum, isn’t Donald Trump, or racism or even sexism. It isn’t income inequality or poverty.
The greatest problem facing mankind is this: we worship and serve the creature, rather than the creator. We are idolaters. THAT is the problem. Everything else flows from there.
We rage against the “others;” we steal; we fornicate; we gossip; get drunk; murder each other with words, guns, knives and thoughts. We lie and cheat, and rob widows and orphans. We seek to find our identity in our sexuality (whether heterosexual or homosexual) rather than the image of God.
We were created to worship and serve our Creator. We were created to love him with our whole hearts. And instead, we hate him and hate our neighbor. Sure, we will have some sort of love towards those who can benefit us, or who agree with our own self-deification. But the heart of the issue is that we love ourselves. We (to borrow from Dr. Horton) are the stars of our own movie. And if the movie is a comedy, a tragedy, a mystery or a farce, it is ours and we will destroy anyone who takes the spotlight from us.
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”
(“In the desert” by Stephen Crane)
We put our trust in money, comfort, politics, country, law-keeping. We hold on to misery as a lifeline, refusing to let it go. We will fight tooth and nail to keep the Ten Commendment plaques on our courtroom walls and we will fight with equal fervor against anyone who tries to make them relevant in our homes. We are all for the Law of God as long as we can use it as a weapon against those who are different than us. But we will invent many schemes, fire many ministers, rail against many friends, rather than apply them to ourselves.
At bottom, the problem is idolatry. We worship and serve ourselves rather than the Creator who made us.
Since this is the problem, there is only one cure. Jesus Christ.
(Eze 37:23-28 KJV) 23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.
24 And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.
26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
28 And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.
We need a new heart. Our own flesh has an incurable wound and we are dying under God’s wrath little by little. We are unclean, all of us. But Jesus took it all upon himself, and gives us freely HIS righteousness and holiness, as long as we accept it with a believing heart.
He doesn’t give us white Anglo-Saxon values. He doesn’t give us 1950’s culture. He doesn’t give us validation. He tells us to take up our cross and follow him.
The only thing that we inherited from our parents was idolatry, sin, death and misery. We must be born again with new values, new hearts, new affections, or we will perish forever. And only Jesus can give us a new heart.
And he gives us that only one way: Through the proclamation of His gospel in faithful churches throughout the world. He works faith by the preaching of the gospel, and confirms it with the use of the sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
The Gospel isn’t politics, coalitions, denouncing of sin, or culture wars. It isn’t found in either patriarchy or feminism, either in complementarianism or egalitarianism or any other “ism” for that matter. There is only one Savior, and it isn’t a system. Salvation only comes one way. Through the blood of Jesus Christ.
A system of doctrine is taught in scripture and confessed by the church, but we must not ever confuse the system with the savior. The system points to the savior. You can be quite orthodox and still be far from God. There is only one savior – Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of David, King of Kings, and Lord of all.
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1Ti 2:5-6 KJV)
As a church, we pat ourselves on the back for a “unified” statement of sexuality, but at the same time we tolerate those who make Jesus a submissive wife in the Trinity. We missed the boat somehow…
We thought that salvation would come from us telling people very clearly as a coalition what was wrong with them. But righteousness never comes by the law.
Righteousness will never come by the law.
The law can make people obedient slaves. But God doesn’t want slaves. He wants sons and daughters. God’s biggest concern for us is not that we keep ourselves from sinning through fear and guilt. Not at all. What he wants is that we love him with our whole hearts. When we have that, we have everything, and even the law is fulfilled.
There won’t be tables of stone in heaven, for we will all be made perfect. You don’t need a law against murder when men and women love each other as themselves, for it would never enter their minds.
Our goal is not to become good little slaves. Our goal is to be like Jesus, a perfect Son, an obedient Son. And this only comes through the preaching of the gospel.
My wife suffered the past two years with a horrible pain condition. In the US, the doctors repeatedly told her about pain management and gave her a lot of options. None of them worked, but some let her sleep fitfully for a while.
Then we heard that Italian doctors had the cure. We went, and she was cured. There was no longer any discussion about whether tens units or ultrasound would be best. No longer any fees for doctors. No longer any debate over gabepentin or cymbala. She was cured.
Why do we as Christians seek to ease the symptoms when Christ has promised the cure? The outward symptoms are adultery, fornication, heresy, witchcraft, reviling, drunkenness, anger, wrath and malice.
And we are getting angrier and angrier every day, because we forgot the cure. Die to self, and come to Jesus. With his touch, he heals your uncleanness; with his spirit, he cleanses you and gives you a new heart. With his baptism – not with water, but with his blood and spirit – he washes away all of your filth and all of your misery. Come to him and live.
I was born and raised in the church by godly parents. I never went through a phase where I didn’t go to church. I married a godly woman and tried to raise my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
And without the blood of Christ, I would be doomed to die under God’s curse. Apart from my savior, I am filthy, unclean and defiled.
Because it doesn’t matter how you self-identify, how you view marriage, whether you tried hard or didn’t try at all.
It doesn’t matter if you spend years at therapy trying to become a better person, or whether you sit on your couch naked and eat Cheetos night and day while your parents pay your bills.
It makes no difference if you are a respected member of society, recognized as a pillar by the most orthodox church in town, or if you spend every evening in the gay bar. It makes no difference if you give your money to the poor or spend it all on booze and meth.
You still desperately need the blood of Christ or you will perish forever in your sins.
But if you come to him, confessing your sins and guilt, casting away every excuse and every justification, if you cease the continuous “well, at least I’m not THAT guy” as if God’s holiness were measured on a curve, if you believe the gospel and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved.
You WILL be. It is a promise from the one who cannot lie.
And if you are in Christ by faith, you WILL be conformed to the image of God’s Son.
This doesn’t mean that you will look like me, or Ward Cleaver, or Pastor Danny at the Big Church on the corner whose name I just made up. It doesn’t mean that you will be like Spurgeon or Calvin or Wesley or Luther or Mother Teresa.
It means that you will be like Jesus Christ, who loved God with his whole heart, even in suffering. He loved his neighbor as himself. He touched those who came to him. TOUCHED them! And the leper was cleansed, the unclean woman was cleansed, the sinner was cleansed, even the Pharisee was cleansed – once he realized that he desperately needed to be (See Romans 7).
So while I am gone, I have a suggestion that I will follow myself. If you haven’t read Romans in a while (just skimming doesn’t count), then take every other book you have and put them on the shelf for a while and read Romans. Think about it. Pray for guidance. Then read it again.
Learn who Jesus is. Learn what the gospel is. THIS is the gospel if Jesus Christ, and it is what the church is here to proclaim. If you are in an organization that doesn’t proclaim this, then flee. They aren’t a church.
I would submit to you that the lawless are very aware of our position on their lawlessness. Let’s quit making that the center of our message. Instead, let’s teach, preach, show and live Christ. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever. True eternal God, the Great I AM of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who became flesh for us and for our salvation.
Come to him, and be saved, all the earth.
See you all in a while!