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Listen to Your Mother

Thursday, May 16, 2019

 

Today is a day on which we pay special attention to and honor mothers.  That’s certainly an appropriate thing to do.  Every one of us owes much to the woman who brought us up and cared for us, and mothers do appreciate it when we treat them well on Mother’s Day.

However, when you get right down to it, what every mother here wants from her children is not a nice corsage and Sunday dinner at Outback.  They don’t really want things from us.  They want things for us.  The best gift that any of us can give our mothers is a happy, successful, productive life.

In fact, that’s why mothers tell us the things they do.  It’s not that they enjoy nagging us or making our lives miserable.  It’s that they’ve been around longer than we have, they’ve seen how various kinds of choices play out, and they want us to make good choices and not bad ones.

Mothers have felt this way for as long as there have been mothers, so it’s not surprising that some of this timeless maternal wisdom has entered the Bible.  This morning, then, let’s turn to the book of Proverbs to see what sorts of things we will do if we listen to our mothers.

The first thing that we will do is to BE WISE.  Why?  Because it makes Mom happy.  Consider here Proverbs 10:1.  All of us need to recognize that we have a tremendous effect on our mother’s happiness.  All we have to do to make her miserable is to be foolish, because she knows very well how our foolishness is going to turn out.  She would much rather see us being wise instead.

It’s probably true that all of us will make better decisions if we make those decisions with our mother’s happiness in mind.  When we make decisions in this way, we will pay less attention to the immediate effects of our decision and more attention to what the effects of that decision will be down the road.  We’ll pay more attention to the consequences of our actions.

Let me tell you about some of the wise decisions that my mother wanted me to make.  First of all, she wanted me to assemble with the saints every time the doors were open.  My mother wasn’t anybody’s fool.  She’d seen enough to know that over time, Christians who faithfully attended services got stronger and stronger, but Christians who came once a week, if that, got weaker and weaker and perhaps even ended up falling away.  Is there any commandment that says we have to be here three times a week?  No, but it is wise!

My mother also wanted me to be careful with my money.  When I was a young man, my financial carelessness drove her to distraction!  Here too, it’s a consequence thing.  She knew that if I would be patient and diligent and save, bit by bit, I could build a better, more secure future for myself.  I’d even have money left over to give to the Lord’s work and help people in need.  However, if I was a spendthrift, I wouldn’t have that security in future, nor would I have the financial freedom to be generous.  Generally, wisdom makes a big difference in our lives—whether we practice it or not!

In addition to generic wisdom, there are also specific ways in which the mothers of Proverbs advise their children to be wise.  First, they want them to BEWARE SEXUAL IMMORALITY.  Here, let’s read from Proverbs 23:25-28.  Specifically, we see that Mom here is concerned about two kinds of women:  the prostitute and the adulteress.  In our society, sadly, sexual temptation is as much a problem for women as for men, but these two kinds of temptations remain.

Let’s start with the prostitute.  Obviously, none of our mothers want us to have anything to do with people like that!  However, I think we can expand the principle here to cover anyone who wants to make money off of lust.

Think about it.  Why does A Game of Thrones have all those naked people in it?  Why does so much comedy rely on innuendo and filthy humor?  Why is there so much porn on the Internet?  It’s all there because somebody is trying to get us to lust so they can make money off us.  Those people want us to believe that they care about us having a good time, but in reality, they are as heartless and calculating as the most jaded hooker on the street.  The less we have to do with them and their works, the happier we will be, the happier our mothers will be, and the happier God will be.

Let’s also watch out for the adulteress, who stands for anyone who entices us into sin for the sake of their pleasure.  Notice that I say “their pleasure”, not ours.  By definition, anybody who tries to get us to sin with them cares more about themselves than they do about us.  If they truly loved us, the very last thing they would do would be to endanger our souls!  Here too, the dire consequences are many.  When Mom tells us to stay away, she knows what she’s talking about.

Finally, the mothers of Proverbs want us to AVOID ALCOHOL.  Consider the words of King Lemuel’s mother in Proverbs 31:1-5.  Admittedly, this is advice dispensed by the mother of a king to a king.  It’s true that none of us are royal, but all of us want to reign with Christ.  It seems to me that we’d still better listen.

That’s all the more true because this advice is not popular.  Just as there are brethren who insist that you don’t have to come to Wednesday night services because there’s no passage that says you do, so too there are brethren who insist that they can drink alcohol because there’s no passage that says you can’t.  In fact, it’s common to find Christians who insist on both of these things simultaneously.

However, I think both arguments miss the point.  If we refuse to consider what wisdom has to say about both church attendance and drinking, we are quite literally being foolish.  In both cases, we need to pay attention to the consequences before we decide what we’re going to do.

Lemuel’s mother spells out the consequences in no uncertain terms.  She warns her son that drinking will lead him to forget God’s decrees and to pervert justice.  In other words, alcohol keeps us from remembering what God wants us to do, and it leads us not to do it.

Today, science has confirmed that Lemuel’s mother was right on.  Even for those who are not drunk, the consumption of alcohol decreases mental function.  It also lowers our inhibitions.  Both of those things make it more likely that we will sin, and on that list, Sin Number One is drunkenness.

In short, brethren, we need to exercise wise judgment when it comes to drinking, and it’s impossible to make the argument that drinking in our society is wise.  Let’s do as Lemuel’s mother advises.  For that matter, let’s do what our own mothers would want us to.  Let’s have nothing to do with drinking.

Psalms 42-43

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

 

Thirsting for the living God,
Seeking favor in His sight,
Still I feed upon my tears
While I sorrow day and night.
In my grief, I call to mind
How I worshiped with the throng,
Coming to the house of God,
Joining there in joyful song.

Chorus:
Why are you cast down, my soul?
Why are you disturbed within?
Put your confidence in God;
I will praise Him once again.

Mourning, I recall Him yet,
Though I struggle in the deep;
He commands His love by day,
And His song will bless my sleep.
I exclaim to God my rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?”
I am wounded in my bones,
Daily faced with mockery.

(Chorus)

Rescue me; defend my cause
From the hateful and unjust;
Why do You reject me still
When in You I put my trust?
Lead me with Your light and truth;
Bring me to Your holy place,
Then will I rejoice in You
And exalt you for Your grace.

(Chorus)

Summaries, Psalms 39-43

Monday, May 13, 2019

 

Psalm 39 describes David’s struggle with human wickedness.  He begins so concerned about his own sinful speech that he resolves not to speak at all in the presence of the wicked.  However, it’s so painful holding his thoughts in that he ends up speaking anyway, not to the wicked, but to God.  He urges God to help him understand his own mortality and comparative impermanence.  All of mankind is equally impermanent.  As a result, he puts his trust in God to rescue him from sin rather than continuing to punish him.  If God does not deliver him soon, it will be too late.

Psalm 40 expresses David’s rejoicing in God’s deliverance.  He waited, God rescued him, put him in a safe place, and gave him reason to praise Him.  Anyone who trusts in God is blessed because God regards people like that.  As a result, David offered himself to God and glorified Him.  Now, he is confident that despite his desperate situation, God still will deliver him.  He looks forward to seeing God disappoint those who want to see him suffer, but he expects that God will give those who seek Him reason to rejoice.

Psalm 41 explains the importance of generosity.  God will protect those who are gracious to the poor, even when they are ill.  This is particularly important to David, because his enemies are expecting him to die and gossiping about him.  David’s illness has led even his close friends to turn against him.  However, David knows that God will deliver him and show His delight in him.

Psalms 42-43 were originally the same psalm, but for some reason were divided up when the book of Psalms was organized.  However, even now, their original unity is obvious.  The original psalm was structured like one of our gospel hymns, with verses and a chorus.  Psalm 42:1-4 is the first verse, 42:5a is the chorus, 42:5b-10 is the second verse, 42:11 is the chorus again, 43:1-4 is the third verse, and 43:5 is the final repetition of the chorus.

Content-wise, the combined psalm is about the psalmist’s suffering and hope for deliverance.  He longs for God like a deer pants for water (Our hymn “As the Deer” is taken from this psalm, though it’s much more optimistic in tone than the original).  He’s suffering and lonely, and he yearns for God’s deliverance.  However, he tells his soul not to be miserable because he knows that God will rescue him eventually.

The second verse adds more information about the suffering of the psalmist.  His situation is so bad that he feels like he’s drowning, he feels like God has forgotten him, and his enemies are mocking him because God hasn’t rescued him.  However, he continues to counsel his soul to peace.

The concluding verse of the original, in Psalm 43, asks God to rescue the psalmist from his enemies and wants to know why he continues to suffer.  He pleads with God to bring him to His temple so he can praise Him.  Once again, though, he urges his soul to be still because he trusts in God.

Rise, O Christ

Friday, May 10, 2019

 

Rise, O Christ, within our hearts;
Come with hope and warning;
Till the night of doubt departs,
Shine, O star of morning!
Break upon our minds this hour;
Dawn in Your perfection;
Prove Yourself the Son with power
By Your resurrection.


Rise, O Christ, upon our woe;
Through Your word, remind us:
Everywhere Your people go,
Still Your light shall find us.

On the midnight of our tears,
Shed Your consolation;
Chase away our darkest fears
With Your sure salvation.

Rise, O Christ, till You descend,
Bright with exaltation;
Bring all error to an end
By Your revelation.
Every eye will plainly see;
Every heart, surrender;
Then arise in victory;
Take us up in splendor!

Why Care About the Pattern?

Thursday, May 09, 2019

 

As we continue through our series of half-hour studies we might hold with an unbeliever, we’ve now passed the point of conversion and moved onto instruction in righteousness.  The goal is to teach that new Christian what they need to know in order to be faithful to God.

In this, the most obvious verse to start with is 2 Timothy 1:13.  Here, Paul tells Timothy that he is supposed to hold to a pattern, a particular way of doing things that Christians are to imitate.  The pattern is laid out in sound words, in the teaching of Jesus, Paul, and the rest of the apostles. 

In recent years, this idea has come under attack.  Many now claim that following the New Testament pattern for our work and our worship is no longer important.  As long as we love Jesus, they say, everything else will work itself out. 

Is that really so?  As disciples of Jesus, should we concern ourselves with the cross and not with the tiny details of Scripture?  Or, conversely, is there some reason why we should concern ourselves with the details too?  In short, why should a new Christian—indeed, why should we—care about the pattern?

I’ve got three reasons for you this evening.  The first is that caring about the pattern is CONSISTENT.  Let’s look here at a text that is familiar to many of us, Colossians 3:17.  We’re not to do some things or even most things in the name of the Lord Jesus.  We are supposed to do everything.

There are many points that we could draw from this, but the point that I want to make is that if we do some things in the name of Jesus and not others, we are not being consistent.  Why is what the Bible says so important in this one area over here but not in this other area over here?

I think that nearly everybody here this evening would agree that following the New-Testament pattern is important when it comes to conversion.  We go to various passages and see that we’re supposed to believe, repent, confess, and be baptized.  That’s how you know you’ve been saved, not because you hear a still small voice in your head, but because you have done what the Bible tells you to do.

We are very suspicious, and rightfully so, of additions to that pattern.  For instance, let’s say we run into somebody who insists that we can be saved from our sins by praying the sinner’s prayer.  What do we tell somebody like that?  I’ll tell you what I’d do.  If this were somebody with any Scriptural sophistication at all, I’d hand them a Bible and ask them to prove it

Of course, nobody is going to be able to do that.  At that point, though, they’re likely to start saying that the Bible never says you can’t, either.  That’s true.  I cannot point to a verse that says, “Thou shalt not pray the sinner’s prayer in order to be saved.”  The Scriptures are silent concerning the sinner’s prayer, but I don’t think any of us would say that such silence makes the sinner’s prayer acceptable.

You know what, brethren?  If silence doesn’t authorize adding to God’s plan for salvation, it doesn’t authorize adding to God’s plan for worship or for the work of the church either.  If we honor God’s silence in teaching others the truth, to be logically consistent, we must honor it everywhere.

Second, caring about the pattern matters because IT CALLS US TO THE WORD.  Consider, for instance, the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:10-11.  Paul came to town proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ.  The Bereans didn’t dismiss his teaching out of hand because they’d never heard it before, nor did they uncritically accept it.  Instead, they turned to the word.  They examined the Scriptures to determine whether what Paul said was true.

We can just as easily apply the same method to weighing any teaching that we hear.  Preacher gets up, says something we’ve heard all our lives.  The fact that we’ve heard it all our lives is irrelevant.  The only thing that matters is whether his sermon stands up to the word. 

What if he says something we’ve never heard before?  Doesn’t matter.  Compare it to the Scriptures, and that will reveal whether we ought to listen.

This word-centric method of discovering truth has two main virtues.  First, it means that we can apply an impartial standard to our lives.  Now, obviously, not every Scriptural question we have can be answered with certainty.  If you think you know for certain what Paul’s thorn in the flesh was, I think you’re wrong!  However, the things that we need to do have been revealed for certain, and if we will agree on following the standard, we can use it to serve God together.

Second, turning to the word is important because it changes us in ways we don’t expect.  The longer I spend with the Bible, the less I think that it’s just a book and the more I think that it’s more like a computer program.  It’s more than a source of information.  As we take it into ourselves, it changes us, and the more we turn to it for answers, the greater that change will be.

Finally, we should care about following the pattern because IT HONORS JESUS, NOT OURSELVES.  Let’s begin our investigation here with Ephesians 5:22-24.  In context, Paul is making the point that women are to submit to their husbands as the heads of their families.  It’s important to note, though, that the example he uses for this submission in everything is the submission of the church to Christ.  Clearly, Paul believed that the church too was supposed to submit in everything to Christ.

That’s a big deal, brethren, not only for the church but for its members.  Everything is everything.  This begins with our personal lives.  Every decision we make, every hour of the day, is supposed to honor Jesus as Lord.  There’s a lot of noise on the news these days about how people have the right to control their own bodies.  Christians don’t.  The most intimate decisions we make, those belong to Jesus too.

So too in our churches.  We’ve got a sign out front that says “Church of Christ”.  Brethren, we can’t just say that we belong to Christ.  We have to prove it.  If everything this church does does not show our submission to Jesus as Lord, that sign out front is nothing more than an empty boast.

OK, but how do we know?  How do we know whether in our personal lives and in our church we are submitting to Christ?  Simple.  We know we are honoring Him as Lord when we do what He says.  There’s no other way.

If I’ve got this great idea for how I should live my personal life, and I can’t point to anything in Scripture that says it’s a great idea, that’s a problem.  If I put it into practice, I’m not honoring Jesus.  I’m honoring me.

Same goes for our conduct in the church.  There are all kinds of things that we might do in our assemblies.  There are all kinds of things that we might do with the Lord’s money.  However, unless we are taking our marching orders from Jesus in those things, we are not honoring Him.  Honoring Jesus means following the pattern.  Anything else is about exalting ourselves.

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