Words to the Wealthy (from James 5)
What words does James have to say to the wealthy? In James 5:1-6 we see some of the roughest and most condemning verses in the Bible. Does James 5 have any relevance to us? If so, why? And if it does, what does it teach us?
“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.”
First, who is it wrote to? It says “you rich” in verse 1.
So, we should ask, ‘Are we rich?’ What do you think, are we rich?
Rich is a relative term. Compared to Elon Musk and Bill Gates I am not rich. If, however, you compare my wealth to what others have had throughout history, or what others have in developing countries, then I will seem quite rich.
Therefore, I don’t think we should automatically discount what this passage is saying. We shouldn’t naively think we’re not rich, so the passage doesn’t apply to us.
Rather, we should humbly consider what it’s saying. We should ask, ‘Why would the rich need to weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon them?’ (v. 1)
I think it’s because…
1) Riches won’t save
It’s always been tempting to trust in wealth. We often feel like our security is connected to how much money we have. We may not come out and say it like that, but that’s what is often going on at the level of our hearts.
James, however, says,
“Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days.”
What’s happening is James is fast-forwarding for us. He’s showing us the future result of trusting in our treasure, trusting in our money rather than our Maker. What happens to riches? They inevitably rot. Even crypto will metaphorically corrode.
When the foundations shake, you’ll be found out. When what you thought was a foundation fails, it’ll be shown that you trusted in the wrong things. The failure of your treasure to last will be “evidence against you.”
In the Bible, “last days” has to do with the end and the coming judgment. So, when the passage talks about laying “up treasure in the last days” it should strike us a very odd and even supremely foolish.
It’d be like people in an apocalyptic movie—whether A Quiet Place, World War Z, or whatever—going out of their way to put money in the bank. At the end of the world, storing up money’s not really the priority.
Instead, James shows us that…
2) Riches are meant to be a stewardship
We are not meant to trust in money or hoard up money all for ourselves. Instead, we should care about justice and carry out justice. Look at James 5:4-6:
“Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.”
Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17 cf. 1 Tim. 4:4). But, it is not just given to enjoy. Though, enjoying the gifts that God has given is right and honors Him. But, we are also given things to manage and invest. What we have is not just for us, but also the benefit of others.
Just as laborers deserve and should get their owned wages, we should justly steward our money. Our unjust selfishness does not go unnoticed by God. We don’t want to be found guilty of living “on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence” (v. 5). We must remember that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Tim. 6:10).
Jesus and James, of course, don’t say money is evil. Money itself is not evil. Even having money is not evil. It can actually be very good and useful. But, “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.”
How can we have the right relationship with wealth?
3) Riches should be submitted to our Savior
James essentially gives us an x-ray of our hearts, and the resulting picture is often ugly. It reveals a misaligned heart. One that often trusts in money and not the Maker.
What is the cure for our heart sickness? What is our cure for our naive trust of money?
I believe it’s seeing life for what it is, short and followed by eternity. We are in the Last Days. There is a coming judgment. The way we steward our money matters.
Further, we need to see Jesus. We need to love our Lord who freely gave up His wealth. Second Corinthians 8:9 says “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.”
When we know the amazing “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” it loosens our grip on wealth. We, more and more, trust the Lord and willingly steward our wealth for Jesus’ Kingdom, not our kingdom.
Questions for Reflection
- What can money provide? In what ways do you trust in money?
- Is money evil? What are some blessings of having money and some challenges of having money?
- Why is the love of money so problematic (“a root of all kinds of evils”)?
- What does it mean for you to manage or steward money?
- What does Jesus have to do with how we think about and use money?
Photo by Jp Valery
Pursuing Jesus in College
How can you keep pursuing Jesus in college?
This summer I will be graduating from George Mason University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing. As I reflect on the past four years, I realize that as I entered college I was not sure what to expect, not prepared for how much harder college is than high school, and not sure how to pursue a relationship with Jesus while in college.
Life after high school is full of uncertainty and questions. What college do I go to? How am I going to pay for college? Do I even want to go to college? What am I going to eat? What should I major in? How am I going to make friends? Most importantly… how am I going to follow Jesus?
I can tell you from experience that college is full of opportunity, freedom, coffee, cramming for exams, ramen noodles, late nights, friends, temptations, people with different worldviews and backgrounds, and sadly hostility towards Christianity.
As you enter this next season of life, my encouragement to you is to pursue a relationship with Jesus by prioritizing a campus ministry, local church, and daily time alone with God. I hope you don’t see this as a to-do list but advice from someone who imperfectly pursued Jesus in college. I don’t say these things to overwhelm you, I say these things for your joy. I promise you that the most possible joy you can have in college is found in knowing Jesus and making Him known (Psalm 37:4, Matthew 6:33).
1. Prioritize a campus ministry.
Jonathan Pokluda says “if you want to change your life, change your playmates and your playground.” Life is all about where you go and who you go there with. Community is essential in college. A campus ministry is an excellent place to pursue friendships with people who will help you grow in your faith. While I was at George Mason, I was involved with a campus ministry called CRU. Their goal is to be a multiethnic community captivated by the Gospel, transformed by the Gospel and committed to taking the Gospel to GMU and the world. Through CRU at George Mason, I grew so much by being discipled by the staff, being a part of a small group, and being encouraged to serve. Life isn’t meant to be done alone, pursue Godly community.
2. Prioritize a local church.
Many college students go to church with their friends. While this isn’t a bad thing, I want to caution you that your friends may: 1) not go every week, 2) go to a different church every week, or 3) go to a bad church. Prioritize a local church that is word-centered and Christ-exalting.
Some evaluative questions: Is the Gospel preached? Is the worship music Christ-centered? Do they preach the Bible? Are there opportunities to serve? An excellent resource to use as you look for a good church is Mark Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.
Why should you prioritize a local church? The Bible says to: Hebrews 10:24-25. Another three reasons to prioritize a local church are to weekly hear the Bible preached, have opportunities to be discipled, and opportunities to serve others.
3. Prioritize time alone with God.
We live in a culture that is driven by instant gratification. Slowing down and spending time with God isn’t always fun, easy, or enjoyable. But John Elmore puts it this way, “something doesn’t have to be amazing in order to be sustaining.” Nothing has helped me grow in my relationship with Jesus more than simply spending time with Him every day. By speaking to Him in prayer and hearing from Him through His word.
Dustin Benge said, “five minutes of prayer is worth more than an hour of scrolling through social media.” It is not that we don’t have the time to spend time alone with God, it’s that we don’t prioritize it. Sometimes we just need to cry out to God, confess that we haven’t prioritized spending time with Him, and ask that He would help us prioritize that. If you want to grow in your relationship with Jesus during college, prioritize spending time with Him daily.
In summary, my hope is that you seek to know Jesus and make Him known while at college. I encourage you to pursue Jesus by prioritizing a campus ministry, a local church, and daily time alone with God.
Photo by Avinash Murugappan
Do we live for a mere inscription on a tomb?
Is there meaning to this madness? Is it just a rat race and then nothing but a cold, silent, and rotten end? Do we live for a mere inscription on a tomb? An inscription that will inevitably fade with the passage of time?
“When you see a man often wearing the robe of office, when you see one whose name is famous in the Forum, do not envy him; those things are bought at the price of life. They will waste all their years, in order that they may have one year reckoned by their name… Some, when they have crawled up through a thousand indignities to the crowning dignity, have been possessed by the unhappy thought that they have but toiled for an inscription on a tomb” (“On the Shortness of Life“).
Christ gives much more to live for. Christ gives us motivation for going “through a thousand indignities.” Christ gives meaning and motivation because through His resurrection our labor in the Lord—whatever it is—is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58)! We can please the Lord and work heartedly unto the Lord in whatever we do (1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:23-24)!
So, the goal of a Christian is not to “wear the robe of office” or be “famous in the Forum.” The goal of a Christian is to put a smile on the face of God their Father and hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Perhaps that will entail being famous in the Forum or wearing the robe of office but the Christian is indifferent. The Christian’s goal is the same whether a pauper a prince: “He must become greater; I must become less” (Jn. 3:10). Christians know that when they do what’s right, they are still unworthy servants; who have only done what was their duty (Lk. 17:10).
So, no; we, or at least Christians, do not live for an inscription on a tomb. But rather for the One who forever takes us beyond the tomb. We live for the veil to lift so we can see the full marvelous glory of God; so we can continually taste of the goodness of God. It is about God and His glory. He deserves all glory and our very purpose is found in enjoying His glory and glorifying Him in the myriads ways that He has called us to.
Christians “crawl” up through a thousand indignities to the crowning dignity of eternal and endless delight.
So, no matter what they tell us, or no matter what we feel, there is a telos. There is a point. There is meaning.
Our end does not have to be the grave because of God.
*Photo by Ronni Kurtz
How can we refuse to bow like Daniel’s friends?
How can we refuse to bow like Daniel’s friends? How can we as the Church in exile stand strong and share the love of Christ?
I was reading about and thinking about dandelions the other day. I want to warn y’all, what I’m about to say is a little controversial and some of you may disagree. But, I think dandelions are cool. And actually pretty.
Dandelions, and this may not surprise you, have one of the longest flowering seasons of any plant. And, did you know, every part of the dandelion is useful? The root, leaves, and the flower. They can be used for food, medicine, and dye for coloring.
Dandelions have had quite an impact and have actually helped a lot of people. Birds, insects, and butterflies consume the nectar or seed of dandelion. Dandelions can be used to make wine and used as a substitute for coffee.
There have been times when dandelions have been appreciated for what they are, but that is not the season we’re in right now in America. We’re in the season of trying to kill dandelions and we spend a lot of money collectively on pesticides to do so.
But, as we know, dandelions are very resilient.[i]
In some ways, church history parallels the history of the dandelion. The church has had its season when it’s been celebrated. When people have seen the benefits of the church. The church, however, has also had its seasons when people have wanted to kill the church, even willing to use pesticides.[ii]
The Church in America is in exile. And more and more that is being made empirically clear. Of course, theologically it’s always been clear.
The book of Daniel has a lot to teach the Church in exile. How can we stand tall and bright like a dandelion when the whole world bows?
How can we be like dandelions? How can we be like Daniel and his friends? How can we stand when many want to cut us down? How can we adapt and even populate and grow in this often hostile climate? (Timothy Keller has some very helpful thoughts on that question here)
How are we, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to be faithful in a faithless world? Answering these questions is one of the main purposes of the book of Daniel.[iii]
How can we refuse to bow like Daniel’s friends?
Romans 15:4 tells us that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction.” Daniel has a lot to instruct us about living in exile. We’ll particularly be considering Daniel chapter 3 here.
In Daniel 3 we see the King, Nebuchadnezzar, sets up a huge idol. It’s ironic because God, the true King, is the one who sets up kings. We see 8 times in Daniel chapter 3 that the king “set up” the idol (Dan. 3:1-3, 5, 7, 12, 15, 18). But in Daniel 2:21 we see that it is God, the real King, that sets up kings:
“He changes times and seasons;
He removes kings and sets up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding.”
So, the first lesson for us if we are to stand is to see that it is God, the true Lord, who is Sovereign.
Second, we must see the prevalence of idolatry.
We may not see actual idols all over in America, but they are there. The truth is: an idol is most massive and mighty when never mentioned. Satan, the father of lies, would like to cover our eyes to our culture of idolatry. We’ll continue to bow if we don’t know we’re bowing.
So, we must see that idolatry is the cultural air we are breathing. We are not immune. We are not untouched. Idolatry is not just out there. It is very often in our own hearts. Therefore, we must search and destroy every idol in operation in our hearts.
What even is idolatry? The New City Catechism says, “Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator for our hope and happiness, significance and security.”
Four questions to help you find your idols:
- What brings negative emotional responses?
- Where do you put your hope when things go well and when things go wrong?
- Who do you compare yourself to?
- How have you turned good things into ultimate things?
Third, be present to bless.
Notice Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to comply with idolatrous practice but they aren’t wholesale against Babylon. They worked hard in the government and were a blessing to Babylon. That’s us too. We need to “come out of Babylon” as it says in Revelation 18:4. But, that means we need to not partake of Babylon’s value system. We’re not to partake of the sins of the world as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:10, we are not to leave the world.
We’re in Babylon, to bless Babylon. We have different values than Babylon but were not to always just bash Babylon or the Babylonians.
Fourth, die rather than partake in idolatry.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are explicitly commanded to bow an idol, which is a clear violation of the 2nd of the 10 Commandments (Ex. 20:4-6). Listen to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s response: “Be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (v. 18).
They were willing to die rather than take part in idolatry. Very often I’m afraid we might be closer to the opposite of that. We’re more than willing to die for our idolatry.
We, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, should die rather than partake in idolatry. As it says 1 Corinthians 10:14, “Dear friends, flee from idolatry”!
Fifth, we may face various fires.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced literal fire and each remained strong in the Lord. You have or will face fire as well—mockery, judgment, or various other obstacles—but as Christians, we can stand because we know Jesus stands with us.
We can stand when we stand in Him. We can refuse to bow, when we bow to Him.
Further, our fellowship with Christ is often nearest and dearest in the furnace of affliction; I suppose that is because all distractions are burned away. In those moments we can know, deeply know, the One who matters most.
But, sixth, no matter what we face, we know God is with us.
Over and over we may be cut down but because of Christ’s sacrifice, we can stand tall like a dandelion; strong, resilient, and bright. And point to the One who is the One True Lord of the universe.
Dear Christian brothers and sisters, remember: God doesn’t promise that He will necessarily keep His people from the fire. But, He does promise that He will be with His people in the flame (Ex. 3:12; Is. 43:2; Matt. 28:18-20; Heb. 13:5; 1 Pet. 4:12-14). Ultimately we see Christ faced the ultimate fire so no matter the fire we face, we can face it with hope. We can face it standing on His promises. God’s promise to be with us finds its fullest fulfillment in Jesus, who is Immanuel—God with us.
How should we respond to the God who is with us through the fire and through the flame? How should we respond to Jesus who waded into the fire of affliction? How should we respond to the One who went through the furnace of the wrath of God completely alone? How should we respond who did all that for us?
We should bow to Him in reverent submission and we should lovingly share the news with “all the peoples, nations, and languages” that He alone is worthy of our worship.
Remember dear brothers and sisters, today the world says bow to every idol, but on the last day everyone—every tribe, language, nation, and tongue—will bow to Christ the King (Phil. 2:10-11).
Let’s bow now. Let’s bow in reverent submission. Jesus is worthy of our worship—of all worship!
So, as you drive around or mow and see dandelions, think about God’s sustaining and persevering power that He gives. He is with us no matter what we face! So, we can stand like resilient dandelions, unbending, pointing to the Creator who alone is worthy of worship.
[i] Most of this was taken from Jen Kerr.
[ii] And actually, in the world today, each of those things is a reality simultaneously depending on where you are. We just happen to live in a place and time in America where “dandelions” seem to be less and less popular.
[iii] The narrations in the book of Daniel of God’s power in the midst of severe opposition serve an important purpose: the encouragement of exiles.
*Photo by Amy Earl
How can we keep from canceling Christ?
I do not think we will be challenged to cancel or deny the deity of Christ. As in the example of Peter on the night of Jesus’s trial. But I do think the time is coming soon when we will be coerced to celebrate and approve of the LGBT perversion. According to Romans chapter 1, this will be the issue that will become the point of the spear. The Bible is now considered hate speech in many circles.
So, to believers what is the big issue regarding “canceling Christ”?
I think we fail to “deny” ourselves. And, in that way we are canceling Christ. We are trying to cancel out the fact that He is the Lord.
Where do we believers tend to deny Christ every day?
I start with Matthew 6:33: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need” (NLT used in these thoughts). When we seek our own kingdom above the Kingdom of God we are denying or canceling Christ.
Also, Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross and follow Me.’” I feel this is the hardest statement Jesus made. This is the hardest directive for us as believers to follow. We are to deny ourselves and our selfish desires and sacrifice those desires and follow the Lord. In not denying ourselves we “cancel” Christ.
Paul said we need to follow Christ in Romans 12:1, “I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.”
To not deny ourselves is to deny the claims of Christ—cancel Christ. To deny ourselves is the daily battle we face. This is a greater battle than any challenges coming from society. When we can die to self we will have no problem standing for Christ in the public square.
The New Testament is clear in regard to self-denial (and suffering). It is also often named self-control. As in the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love… and self-control…”
We actually do not want self-control, we desire Spirit control. When we fail to yield to the Spirit in our lives and put our own desires first, we are canceling Christ.
Paul said, “I die daily.” We too should consider ourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11). When we fail to die to self we are canceling Christ. Denying or canceling Christ is a matter of continual dying to self and our desires and being obedient to the Spirit.
How can we keep from canceling Christ?
We’ll be willing to die for Christ if we die to ourselves daily. So, we daily deny ourselves—cancel our sinful and selfish desires—and serve Christ. That’s how we position ourselves to never cancel Christ.
4 Points to Pop Pride
The last thing Christians should be is puffed up with pride. Below are four points to pop pride.
Pride is damaging and is at the heart of what damned the devil himself. We would be wise to destroy pride before it destroys us (Prov. 16:18).
1. Group Connection
Pride protects us from the penetrating eye of others, at least, until it is too late. To kill pride we must let at least a select group pry; pry into our lives and our inner motivations. We must let them lovingly dive-in and help dig out roots of sin that we can’t see because the seed hasn’t yet sprouted and blossomed its poisonous plume (see 1 Tim. 5:24; Heb. 12:15).
When I drive with my wife you can often hear me say, “Clear right?!” As soon as she says, “Clear!” I’m making that lefthand turn. I’m squealing the tires (in our minivan…).
I ask her because I can’t see what’s coming. And I know that blind spots can cause big problems. So, I need her help.
Blind spots are no less dangerous on the road of life. We need each other to see what we don’t see ourselves. What’s going on in our own hearts is hard to truly understand. We need wise brothers and sisters to help us discern what’s going on (cf. Prov. 20:5).
Connection in an honest and loving community is vital for health. We need spiritual wellness exams. We want to kill cancerous sin before it grows and brings forth death (cf. James 1:15). We need to be sharpened (Prov. 27:17) and we need the occasional friction of rebuke (1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 4:2).
Like a horse, we need a goad to guide us to good works (Heb. 10:24-25). Like a rope, we need to be interlaced with others to be strong (Eccl. 4:12). Like a general, we need counsel to wage war wisely (Prov. 24:6).
Ironically, if we’re going to pop pride, we need people in our bubble.
2. Gifts are a Gift
Gifts are given. They are not deserved. If we have a gift, it’s because we received it. We didn’t own it on our own. Therefore, we shouldn’t boast as if we did not receive it (1 Cor. 4:7). And no matter what we have—strength or smarts, artistry or arithmetic, wealth or wisdom—it’s all a gift given by God (Jn. 3:27; James 1:17).
And gifts are given, not for our own good, but for the good of others (1 Pet. 4:10; 1 Cor. 12:7). Gifts are given with an understanding from God that there will be a return on His investment. It is required of servants that they be faithful (1 Cor. 4:2). But, that is nothing out of the ordinary. A servant is supposed to be faithful (Lk. 17:10).
If they are a servant with more gifts entrusted to their care, they are just being faithful with what God has given them, which is really not much different than the other servants. Except that they may go through more pain and have more of a demand on their life.
Also, it should be remembered that no body part, whatever that body part is and how gifted it is, functions on its own. In the same way, the quarterback may lead the team but he’s not the only one on the team. If he were, he would be crushed.
We all have different parts to play in the body (1 Cor. 12:12-31). The different parts have different roles, different gifts, as God assigned. But, notice, it is God that arranged and appointed it that way (v. 18, 28). It is not as if anyone earned their particular gift or role in the body.
So, since gifts are given they should never be a cause of pride.
3. Given Identity
The Bible teaches us that we don’t earn an identity, we are given an identity. Anyone in Christ, for example, is a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). That is who they are. They are new. They are an adopted son or daughter of God (Eph. 1:5).
Paul David Tripp’s book on leadership is very helpful here. I shared a few quotes from his book recently. Here’s one that’s especially applicable here:
“Ministry leadership identity produces fear and anxiety and will never produce the humility and courage that come with identity in Christ. Looking horizontally, as a leader, for your identity, meaning, purpose, and internal sense of well-being asks people, places, and position to do for you what only your Messiah can do.”
We don’t boast in who we are, we boast in the Lord (Jer. 9:23-24; 1 Cor. 1:31)! Therefore, we don’t falter when we fail and we don’t overly seethe with success. And we don’t compare ourselves with others because we’re not looking for commendation from others (2 Cor. 2:12, 17-18). We’re looking for a smile on our Father’s face, even if it brings a frown from others (Matt. 25:21; Rom. 2:29; 1 Cor. 4:5).
So, we rest in our God-given identity—who we are in Christ—and not in any merely earthly identity.
4. God’s Glory
Everything we have, we have been given. And everything we have been given is to be given back to God in the form of praise. All we do is to be to His praise and glory, even when we eat (1 Cor. 10:31).
Everything is about Him, it is the height of folly and stupidity when we make it about us. That’s worse than an ant that thinks it deserves praise for moving a speck of sand. The ant is nothing and its work is nothing compared to the might and majesty of God. To think that God would owe us is worse still (see Job 35:7; 41:11; Rom. 11:35)!
All things are about Him (Col. 1:16) and the fact that He chooses to use mere humans only highlights His glory (2 Cor. 4:7 cf. 2 Cor. 12:8-10).
So, we pop pride when we see that it’s all about God and His glory.
 See “The Pastoral Long-Suffering of Spurgeon and Boyce”
 The success of the body rests on the individual parts of the body and not on any one part on its own, no matter how gifted that part is. Tom Brady knows this. He gave up millions so that the other important parts of the team could get filled up.
*Photo by Hamed darzi
We’re Listening… To Something.
We all listen to something.
We all listen to something. Or we all get our idea of what we should do, be, and care about from somewhere. Whether Cosmo Magazine, the Wishbone app, Ask.fm, whatever you watch on Netflix, or whatever is said on Snapchat through BuzzFeed.
Should we listen to Taylor Swift, Jimmy Fallon, Post Malone, and DJ Khaled and receive “truth” from them? Or what about YouTube and Vine stars, Shawn Mendes, Tyler Oakley, Miranda Sings, Logan Paul, Jenna Marbles, and Hannah Hart?
Where is truth to be found? Popular and charismatic leaders?! Bernie Sanders? Barak Obama? Donald Trump? Joe Biden?
What about Adolf Hitler? Well, we automatically say no to some of those people especially Hitler. But that wasn’t always the case. Hitler was a gifted leader that actually brought what looked to some people like really good change.
But what do we know about Hitler? He was a moral monster. And he was fallible. That is, he was not perfect. And the thing is, neither is Cosmo Magazine, or Kanye, or Trump, or… whoever or whatever.
Yet, we’ve seen that we all listen to something/someone. We all get guidance for what we should do, how we should live, who we should be, from somewhere. But what that thing is that gives us guidance is super important.
Let’s take Hitler and Nazi Germany as our example again. Remember Hitler Youth? What were they taught? And I am not necessarily just talking about formal education. I am talking about what was the cultural air they breathed in? What did they believe and why?
They believed, or it would seem most of them believed, that the Nazi vision was their vision, their great dream, and destination. Was the Nazi vision, however, the correct vision, the correct hope?
I think and hope we would all clearly agree that they were wrong. And what happened as a result? Mass death, pain, and destruction. Essentially they got bad directions and arrived at a living hell.
Where we get our vision for life and prospering is important. Very important.
Where we get our “directions” is extremely important. And it is extremely important that those directions are correct directions. If not we will be led astray in innumerable ways.
[[Can I just say as an aside that we must fight against the temptation of geographical or chronological snobbery. America and the 2000s does not have the market on truth. We cannot use ourselves as the infallible measure of truth, can we? If so, couldn’t we justify anything we do in light of the fact that after all we’re right, we know what’s right? Couldn’t we end up a lot like Hitler and Nazi Germany? Our location on the planet and our time in history does not mean we have arrived, it does not equal truth. If we think it does then we are setting ourselves up for something bad.]]
How do we know how to think about sex and pornography and why do some of us desire to look at it so much and yet feel dirty, weird, or guilty after we do? What explains that? What about aspirations? What we should do in life? What about the point of life? What’s it all about? What about… and a thousand other things? We’re getting these answers somewhere, or trying to, but is it the right place? Is whatever we’re listening to giving us the correct answers?
We all know it’s important to get the correct answers to our questions, right? We know that from any test we’ve ever taken at school. Well, when it comes to life’s big fundamental questions, likes some of the ones we just looked at, it’s like twenty-thousand times more important that we get the correct answer. Failing a test at school, so to speak, does not at all compare to failing life.
So, why do we need a foundation? Well, first, let’s look at what a foundation is. The foundation, what a house sits on, is typically concrete. A foundation makes the house solid. It keeps it from moving.
Actually, the old farmhouse that I grew up in does not have a concrete foundation. It has cinderblocks on one side of the house and like two metal braces.
The house has shifted over the years. You can tell especially by looking at the doorframes and hallways.
The house was not built on something solid, it does not have a good foundation so it is liable to collapse.
Do you see the connection? It’s the same way with our lives. We need a solid foundation to build on. We need something sturdy that won’t shift with time. We need truth.
[[Did you know that even before the Fall, before the world was plunged into all sorts of chaos because of sin, we still needed instructions from God? God talked to humans before the Fall and told them a few things. Did they listen? No. And what happened? The Fall. The fall of everything… It is vital that we have guidance. That is innate within us since the beginning. Yet, we also see it’s vital we get it from the right source]]
Scripture is our foundation. Why? Because it is the truth.
Scripture all over the place claims to be the truth but it also shows itself to be the truth. Jesus who historically verifiably rose from the dead believed in the infallible Word of God and He said that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Helper, to guide us in all truth. That’s just what we see in the rest of the New Testament. And Peter said that the Apostle Paul’s writings were Scripture.
Plus, if God hasn’t spoken then truth is relative. We make our own truth. You make yours, I make mine. Basically, then, there is no truth. Adolf Hitler was not wrong. He was just wrong to us. However, we innately know that there is right and wrong. That is because there is a God that made the universe and He has written the law on our hearts.
The law on our hearts, our conscience, however, is not very specific. It teaches us that it is typically wrong to kill. It teaches us a few restrictions like don’t kill and don’t torture dolphins for fun. But it leaves other things out, like positive things we should do. Our conscious doesn’t tell us what to live for or what is absolutely right and wrong…
That’s partly why Scripture is so priceless. The Bible repeatedly says that it is worth more than gold, even much fine gold. And it is! So, let’s look at a brief theology of the Bible…
The Word is True (Ps. 19:7, 9; 119:142, 160; Jn. 17:17)
God’s Word comes from God, the highest authority. The one who knows because He is all-wise. We have His words. And we need His words.
God’s Word corresponds to reality. It tells us what is real. It is true to life. True to the way of life and the way things work. Thus, it makes sense that it is correct.
The Bible is true and so it gives factual and accurate records of events. It is true to reality. It tells us about the world, and us in the world. Truth is not relative. There are things that are right and wrong for all people at all places at all times
C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” The Bible is true in that it explains reality to us. It accurately tells us why the world is the way it is. The Bible gives us the proper lens by which to see the world. The Bible gives us a worldview that corresponds with reality.
God’s Word is true and it is also eternal. It does not end. It does not stop being the truth. Everything else we read will pass away. Facebook, blogs, Twitter, cnn.com, espn.com, textbooks, novels, the Washington Post. One day the last Facebook status ever will be posted and Snapchat will end. But the Word of God will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8).
The Word is Enlightening (Ps. 119:44-45, 105, 130; Prov. 6:23; 2 Tim. 3:15-17; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Peter 1:3-4).
God’s Word directs us how to live. It is a lamp to our feet. Without God’s Word we would be in darkness. We would not know where to go…
God, as we have said, has all-wisdom. He knows how the world operates and was meant to operate. Thus, if He tells us things we should do and things we should not do it makes sense for us to listen to Him. He knows! God’s word is a light because without it we are blind.
The Word is Shaping (Ps. 119:9, 11, 165; Is. 55:11; Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12)
Because the Word is true and brings light and direction to our lives we see it shapes us and our lives. It shapes the way we live and think about things. It also convicts us. As 2 Timothy 3:17 says, “It makes us equipped for every good work.”
“The Word God breathes goes forth from Him and does not return to Him empty. It accomplishes all that He sends it out to do” (Is. 55:11).
“The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of every man’s heart” (Heb. 4:12).
The Word is Precious (Ps. 19:10-11; 119:72, 127)
The Bible, God’s truth, is precious because without it we are lost. We could have all the money and gold in the world but not understand how to think about money or gold, how to use money and gold. The Bible is precious because it tells us about the world that is beyond the 70ish years that we have here.
The Word is Life-giving (Ps. 119:144; Matt. 4:4)
Without the Word we die. That is what the Bible says. What does that mean?
It means we need the Bible to live. We need God’s life-giving truth every day. It is not something that we can do without.
To this day, man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). The Bible is not a map you pull out every so often to see if you’re still on track. The Bible is our oxygen tank and we are scuba-divers. We need God’s Word to live. What God breathes out, we need to breathe in.
The psalmist said, “Give me understanding that I may live.” The word of God is serious. It’s a matter of life and death.
The Word is Saving (Rom. 10:17; James 1:21-22)
The word helps us persevere. It sanctifies us and ensures we don’t fall away. But for it to have that effect on us we can’t just hear the word, we have to be doers of it. The Bible helps us to continue in the faith so that we do not fall away and prove that we were never truly in Christ.
Remember that children’s song “Jesus Loves Me”? That song is actually quite profound and amazing. How do we know that Jesus loves us? It’s because “the Bible tells me so.” Without the Bible we are lost. Lost in every way. The Bible is our foundation.
What are you listening to?
What we do matters. And that’s good news.
Yesterday I posted a few thoughts about Matthew 16:27 which says “the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done.”
For a lot of people that may seem very heavy and discouraging. For me, it’s good news. It’s good news because it means there’s meaning. What we do matters.
It makes me think of Albert Camus’s “The Myth of Sisyphus.” In “The Myth of Sisyphus,” Sisyphus has to carry a huge rock up a hill and you know what happens once he does? It rolls right back down the hill… And again and again and again… Basically, Camus is saying life is meaningless and absurd.
And that reminds me of another philosophical work, the book of Ecclesiastes from the Bible. One of the reoccurring phrases in that book is “vanity of vanities.” Is all meaningless? Does what we do matter?
The Bible answers with a resounding “Yes!”
For someone who has wrestled with depression because of perceived purposelessness, it’s good news that what we do matters. It adds pep and purpose to my life… Even if it’s a heavy truth, I’ll take it because it means our lives have weight.
The fact that Jesus will repay each person according to what they have done adds huge significance to our lives. “We’re playing for keeps,” so to speak. Life is the real thing. We should live and enjoy it and we should love God and others. That’s what Ecclesiastes concludes with.
So, I’m thankful for the good news that what we do in life matters. I’m especially mindful of that on the day after Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Martin and the Million Man March mattered. It mattered and racism matters.
It matters that MLK was killed. It matters that MLK peacefully fought for the sanctity of blacks and all people. It matters for a lot of reasons. But for one, it matters because people will give an account for their racism, acts of violence, and even every careless word (Matthew 12:36).
So, as I said, this is heavy and hard. It’s not an easy pill to swallow but it is the medicine we need. We can’t lash out and attack and think it doesn’t matter. Our every action is riddled with significance. That truth, however, shouldn’t cripple us, it should cause us to fly to Jesus who is both our Savior and Sanctifier.
When the options are laid out in front of me, I’ll take actual meaning and significance every time. I don’t want the poisoned sugar pill that says what we do doesn’t really matter. I’ll take the truth even if it’s bitter.
What we do totally matters. It’s hard in some ways to hear that but the alternative is to say it doesn’t matter. And that would be saying nothing matters, there is no meaning.
To close, it seems there are three options:
1) Be crushed by the utter meaninglessness of life (e.g. give up, don’t care) or…
2) be crushed by the utter meaning of life (e.g. try to own everything, try to be the great rescue yourself) or…
3) trust Christ. Christ says there’s meaning and He says there’s hope. What we do matters and we’ve all failed. He, however, didn’t throw in the towel on us. He took up a towel and lived as a servant. He did all the good we should’ve done and didn’t do the bad. And yet He was crushed for us but not under the weight of meaning or meaninglessness but on a cross.
Jesus finished where we bailed, He succeeded where we failed. He’s always right and we’re often wrong. He has a perfect record and He offers it to us.
The Bible teaches that what we do matters.
The Bible teaches that what we do matters.
“For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:27).
“The Son of Man is going to come.” That’s going to happen. Just as surely as Jesus came, He’s coming back. And He’s coming in glory.
No stable, no mere star. All of the world will see His utter glory. That’s going to happen. And Scripture repeatedly reminds us to be ready because it’s going to happen soon.
The One who took His cross and beckons us to take up ours will soon take His full rightful glory. All the world will be awed by His power. All the world will bow and acknowledge the reality that He is Lord (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10-11).
And as the Lord, He will dish out what’s deserved. The Just One will measure out justice. All will meet their deserved fate. There will be grace and wrath in abundance. And there will be peace.
A takeaway for all Christians: we must see the utter importance of our actions. Just because one is saved by grace through faith does not at all mean that what one does doesn’t matter.* Christians should be people of faith-filled sacrificial love. Because…
The Lord Jesus will repay each person according to what they have done.
What we do and don’t do matters. It matters a lot. Our lives and our actions have significance. They have significance because there is a Savior who reigns who will enforce His loving rule.
*Christians are saved by faith alone but the faith that saves is never alone. Those who are made new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), are to live as new creations in Christ. They are to live holy lives because they are holy (1 Cor. 1:2).
How is being hated by the world motivating?
“You will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).
Wow. What an encouraging word. Not!
You will be hated by a ton of people. But, if you can take it long enough, if you endure until you die… Well… Well, then you’ll be saved!
How is that good news? Isn’t it too late for good news at that point? How is this verse at all motivating?
Being hated by all and enduring that hatred makes no sense. At least, it makes no sense if you don’t believe in who Jesus is or what He says. If, however, you experience the truth of who He is you are positioned to endure the reality of what He says. You are positioned to practice sacrificial love as He did and so many of His followers have.
We who have seen Jesus’ blooded limbs outstretched for us on the tree are in a position to take a similar posture. We know “a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (v. 24). We know the Lord of the universe took up His cross and we must too (v. 38).
We know singleminded devotion is not only required, it is right. It is in line with the grain of the universe. To be suffering for the Savior is to be in rebellion against a rebellious world. To be hated by the world is, in a sense, is to be Frodo and Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia; it is to be on the right side. The dark side, with the contemptuous orcs, are wrong.
The world’s very fury is a sign of victory. As the world hated Him so must the world hate us. And as we are hated as He was, so we are His. And so share His victory. So, the more we look like the victims of this world, the more we are the victors.
Thus, it actually is good news that those who endure to the end will be saved. Because the reverse is also true: those who don’t endure, will not be saved. So, we don’t have to fear (v. 26). We do “not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Instead, we “fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (v. 28).
If we know—truly know—who Jesus is, we will acknowledge. If we love Him, we will live for Him. If we delight in Him, we will die for Him. If we don’t, we won’t. But it’s important that we do. Jesus Himself says: “everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven” (v. 32–33).
Our endurance of hatred and a thousand hostilities is just what it means to be in the cosmic fight that we are in. No, it is not a fight we fight with fists and fury but with love. But a fight it still is. And it demands endurance. The endurance of Frodo and Sam on their mission to Mordor and the sometimes awkward encouragement of Leia and Luke.
So, endure. Fight to the finish. We’re in a real battle that is bigger than guns. There’s not always a happy ending. And there’s no reset. We’re in reality. And the stakes are high.
*Image by Gordon Johnson