SUFFERING FROM LACK OF WISDOM Bruce McKerras May 2010
What is wisdom?
Job 28:28 The fear of the Lord is wisdom and to turn from evil, that is understanding.
Psalm 53:1 Only a fool says; there is no God.
Where can wisdom be found?
Job 28:20 Where, then, does wisdom come from?
Job 28:23 God alone understands the way to it; He alone knows its source.
Micah 6:8 The Lord has told you mortals what is good and what it is that the Lord requires of you; only to act justly, to love loyalty, to walk humbly with you God.
Deuteronomy 4:6 Observe My laws ....show your wisdom to the nations.
Who gets wisdom?
Daniel 2:21 God gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have discernment.
1 Corinthians 1:21 As God in His wisdom ordained, the world failed to find Him by its wisdom, and He chose the folly of the Gospel to save those who have faith. 1 Corinthians 1:23-24 The Gospel proclaims Christ crucified and resurrected; this offends the Jews and is foolishness to the Gentiles, yet to those who are called, Christ is the power and wisdom of God.
Matthew 11:25 ..these things hidden from the learned and wise and revealed to the simple.
James 1:5-6 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God and it will be given you.
But whoever asks must ask in faith, with no doubts in their mind.
Proof of wisdom.
James 3:13 Which of you is wise or learned? ... practical proof is by your right conduct.
James 3:17 The wisdom from God is pure, peace loving, considerate and open minded. Sincere, compassionate and deeds of kindness are its fruit.
Matthew 11:19b God’s wisdom is proved right by its results.
Hosea 4:6 My People rejected knowledge and wisdom, so will I, your God forsake you.
Jeremiah 4:22 My people are fools, they have no understanding.
Isaiah 29:10 The Lord has poured on you a spirit of deep stupor.
Isaiah 29:11 The prophetic vision is like the words in a sealed book.
Isaiah 29:13 Because this people worship Me with empty words.. their religion is but a human precept, learnt by rote.... the wisdom of the wise shall vanish.
Isaiah 29:17-21 In a very short time.....the evil doers will be cut down.
Isaiah 29:22-24 Therefore.... this is no time for Israel to be shamed...when they see what I have done in their midst....they will regard Israel’s God with awe; the confused will gain understanding and the obstinate will accept instruction.
Deuteronomy 32:29 O that they were wise- consider the latter end!
Results of gaining wisdom and righteousness
Proverbs 3:13 Blessed is the man who finds wisdom... more profitable that gold.
Righteousness and faith will gain you eternal life, but to gain rewards-crowns- we must live wisely and bear fruit. The righteous must also seek wisdom, as the Bible says “Apply our hearts to wisdom to escape all these things”, Luke 21:34-36 For that is the punishment of unbelievers.
Free will is God’s plan for mankind. We choose our own path in this life. God is testing us.
God tells us to watch, pray and be wise. This must make a significant difference in the results we experience, or free will is a sham. “We will stand before the Son of Man in judgement”.
The Wisdom of Solomon 1:7-11
The Spirit of Y’hovah fills the whole earth and that which holds all things together, knows well everything that is done and said. The doings of a godless person will be brought to account, the proof of his iniquity will come before the Lord.
Wisdom 1:12-16 Do not court disaster or death by living a wicked life, for God takes no pleasure in the destruction of any living thing. Death has no sovereignty on earth, for justice is eternal; but the godless, by their deeds and words have asked death for his company. They have made a pact with him because they are fit members of his party.
Wisdom 2:1-9 They say to themselves: Our life is short and full of trouble, by chance we were born and then we vanish like the mist. Come then, let us enjoy good things while we can- this is the life for us, revelry and pleasure. For us, let might be right! Let us set traps for the just person, they stand in our way. He knows God, so he says- he styles himself ‘a child of God’. He is a living condemnation of our way of thinking. We will condemn him to death, for if what he says is true, he will have a protector. So they thought, blinded by their own sins, they fail to understand God’s hidden plan. They never realised a holy and righteous life would have its recompense. It was the devil who brought death into the world and those who take his side will experience it.
Wisdom 3:1-10 The souls of the just are in God’s hand, no torment will touch them. In the eyes of the foolish, they are killed and their death reckoned as a defeat. But they are at peace, for though, in the sight of men they may suffer punishment, they have a sure hope of immortality. God has tested them and found them worthy to be His. He put them to the proof like gold in a crucible and found them acceptable. In the time of their judgement, they will shine in glory. They will be judges and rulers over nations and peoples and the Lord will be their King forever. Those who have put their trust in Him, they are His chosen and grace and mercy will be theirs. But the godless will meet with the punishment their evil actions deserve, because they took no heed of justice and rebelled against God.
Wisdom 5:1-8 On the Day of reckoning, the just man will take his stand, to confront those who oppressed him and made light of his sufferings. At the sight of him there will be terror and confusion, they are astounded at his unforeseen deliverance. Remorseful, groaning and gasping for breath, they will say: this man was once the target for our contempt. Fools that we were, we held his way of life madness and his end dishonourable. To think he is now counted as a son of God!
Reference: Revised English Bible Apocrypha, some verses abridged. 211
Wisdom of Solomon 1:1-5 Love justice, you people of the earth, set your mind upon the Lord and seek Him in purity of heart. For He is to be found by those who trust Him without question and He makes Himself known to those who never doubt Him. Dishonest thinking cuts people off from God and if fools think they can abrogate His Laws, He shows them up for what they are. Wisdom will not enter a shifty soul, nor make her home in a body that is mortgaged to sin. The Holy Spirit will shun falsehood, she cannot stay in the presence of unreason, and will withdraw at the approach of injustice.
Wisdom of Solomon 13:1-9 What born fools are all who live in ignorance of their Creator! From the good things before their eyes, they cannot learn to know Him and fail to recognize the Maker, though they observe His handiwork. Fire, the wind, the sun and moon – these they make their gods. If in the beauty of these things, people suppose them to be gods, they should understand how much better and greater, must be He who made them. For the greatness and beauty of created things gives us some idea of the Creator. Perhaps these people are really seeking God, but with enough understanding to speculate about the Universe, why can’t they realize that there must be a Maker.
Wisdom 14:22-31 Then, not content with crass error in their knowledge of God, people live in deep ignorance and call this evil, peace. They perform secret ceremonies and the frenzied orgies of unnatural cults. The purity of life and marriage is abandoned All is chaos, bloody murder, theft and fraud, corruption, treachery, riot, adultery, sexual perversion, and honest folk driven to distraction. For the worship of idols, whose names it is wrong even to mention, is the beginning, the cause and the end of every evil. Judgement will overtake them on two counts- because in their devotion to idols, they have denied God and because in their contempt for religion, they have perjured themselves.
Wisdom 15:1-3 But you, our God, are kind and true and patient, a merciful Ruler of all there is. Even if we sin, we are Yours, since we acknowledge Your power. But because we know we are accounted as Yours, we shall not sin. To know You is the whole of righteousness and to acknowledge Your power is the root of immortality.
Wisdom 19:13-22 On the sinners, however, punishment comes, heralded by violent thunderbolts. They suffer justly for their own wickedness, because their hatred of strangers and the oppression of Your people.
Reference: Revised English Bible Apocrypha, abridged.
Many Have Been Created, But Only a Few Will Be Saved
2 Esdras 7:45-56 Therefore, on the Day of judgement, there can be no mercy for those who have lost their case and no reversal for those who have won. Ezra replied: But Lord, how much better it would be if Adam had been restrained from sinning. O Adam; what have you done? What good is the hope of eternity, in the wretched and futile state to which we have become? You say that Y’hovah will save those who lead pure lives, but what of the many who fail to attain that standard and give no thought to what is in store after death.
2 Esdras 7:57-61 This is the thought for every person to keep in mind during the battle of life: Moses, in his time said to the people: “Choose life, that you may live”. But they believed neither him, or the prophets sent after him. There will be no sorrow over their damnation, but there will be joy for the salvation of those who have believed and obeyed Y’hovah’s commands.
2 Esdras 7:62-70 I know that Y’hovah is merciful and compassionate. Without His forgiveness, there could be no hope for this worlds inhabitants. He is our Judge and unless He blots out our countless offences, there would be very few who could be spared. The angel replied: Y’hovah has made this world for many, the next world for but a few. It is the same with the earth, plenty of clay, not much gold – many have been created, but only a few will be saved. Romans 9:22-23
2 Esdras 8:19-39 This is the prayer offered by Ezra, before being taken up to heaven: O Lord, You inhabit eternity, everything belongs to You.....We and our fathers have lived evil lives, yet it is on account of us sinners that You are called merciful. What is man, that You should be angry with him? The truth is, no one who was ever born is entirely innocent of sin. Y’hovah will have joy in the salvation of those who trust Him
2 Esdras 8:59-62 Yours, then will be the joys I have predicted. It is not that the Most High has wanted any person to be destroyed, but those He created, brought dishonour onto their Creators Name and show ingratitude to the One who put life within their reach. That is why My judgement is now close at hand. I have not made this known to all, only to you and a few like you. Romans 2:9-11
2 Esdras 9:1-6 My Lord, tell me when the last days will be.
Watch carefully, you will see that some of the signs predicted have already passed, then you will understand that the time is near for Y’hovah to begin to judge the world that He has created. When the world becomes the scene of earthquakes, insurrections, plots among the nations, unstable governments and panic among rulers, then the end of the age, as prophesied, draws near. The times that Y’hovah has determined; the beginning is marked by portents and miracles, the end by manifestations of power.
2 Esdras 9:7-8 All who come safely through and escape destruction, thanks to their good deeds and faith they have shown, will survive the dangers I have fortold and witness the salvation I shall bring to My Land, the territory I have set apart from all eternity as My own. The just will be saved, the world is theirs and for their sake it exists. Reference: REB Apocrypha. Verses abridged
Jacob I loved and Esau I hated Romans 9:13
Romans 9:14-15 What shall we say to that? Is God to be charged with injustice? Certainly not! He says to Moses; I will have mercy on those to whom I show mercy and pity on those to whom I give pity.
Romans 9:16-18 Thus, it does not depend on human will or effort, but on God’s will. Cyrus and Pharaoh were raised up in order to carry out His plans.
Romans 9:19-21 Then how is it that God judges error, if no one can resist His will? We are all as pots in the hand of the Potter, we cannot argue with our Maker. [Isaiah 64:8]
Romans 9:22-23 But if it is indeed God’s purpose to display His justice and make His power known, can it be that He has with great patience tolerated vessels that were objects of retribution destined for destruction? This is in order to show the extent of His power and glory to those other vessels prepared for His mercy and honour.
Romans 9:24-26 We are those vessels of mercy, whom He has called from among Jews and Gentiles alike, as He says in Hosea; Those who were not My people, I will call My people and the unloved, I will call loved. They will be called Children of God.
Romans 9:27-29 Isaiah says; Though the Israelites be a vast number, only a remnant shall be saved. The Lord’s sentence on the Land is final, but Jacobs descendants will not die out. [‘A vast number’? must refer to all twelve tribes, not just Judah]
Romans 9:30-31 This is truth; The Gentiles [Christians] achieved righteousness based on their faith, whereas the Jews made great efforts to keep a Law of righteousness, but never attained to it.
Romans 9:32-33 Why was this? Because their efforts were not based on faith, but, mistakenly, on deeds. They tripped over the “stone” mentioned in scripture: Here I lay in Zion, a stone to stumble against, but he who has faith in it will not be put to shame. [Isaiah 8:14-15 –Again, referring to the two Houses of Israel]
Romans 10:4 For Jesus Christ is the end of the Law and brings righteousness to everyone who has faith in Him.
Romans 10:10-13 Faith in your heart leads to righteousness and confession on your lips leads to salvation. Everyone who calls on the name of Y’hovah will be saved. In this there is no distinction between Jew or Gentile, for the same Lord is Lord of all and has riches enough for all who call on Him.
Romans 11:25 There is a Divine secret here; this partial hardening has come on Israel [the Jews] only until the Gentiles have been admitted in full strength, once that has happened, the whole (12 tribes) of Israel will be saved.
Romans 12:11-12 With unflagging zeal, aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Let hope keep you joyful, in trouble stand firm and persist in prayer. V21 Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.
Romans 13:14 Let Jesus Himself be the armour that you wear and give your unspiritual nature no opportunity to satisfy its desires.
Reference: REB. Some verses abridged. 214
Emptiness For the Empty and Fullness For the Full
2 Esdras 6:1-6 The Angel of the Lord said to Ezra: When the earth began, the gates of the world were not yet in place, no winds blew, or rains fell. The stars and firmaments were still to be established. Zion had not yet been chosen as God’s own footstool, the present age had not been planned, nor had God’s seal been set onto those who have laid a treasure of faithfulness. Then it was, He had His thought and the whole Universe was created by Him. In the same way, through God alone, the end will be.
2 Esdras 6:11-20 My master and Lord, make known to me the signs of the end times. Rise to your feet and you will hear a loud and resonant voice. Do not be frightened when you feel the earth tremble at the sound, for it speaks of the end and the earth’s foundations will understand. I listened and a voice like a mighty torrent said: The time draws near when I shall come to judge the earth’s inhabitants, the time when I shall enquire into the wickedness of wrongdoers, the time when Zion’s humiliation will be over. A time when a seal will be set on the age about to pass away. Then I shall perform these signs – the books will be opened in the heavens and all will see My judgement at the same moment.
2 Esdras 6:23-29 A loud trumpet blast will sound, striking terror into all who hear it. At that time friends will fight friends, all will be terrified. Rivers will stand still and for 3 hours, cease to flow. Whoever is left after all this, will be saved and see the salvation that I bring and the culmination of this world of Mine. They will see men who were taken up into heaven without tasting death. All peoples will have a change of heart, wickedness will be blotted out, but faithfulness will flourish and truth will be revealed. As Y’hovah spoke, the ground swayed to and fro.
2 Esdras 7:17-24 Again I asked the Angel; In the Law, laid down by the Most High, the just shall inherit blessings, but the ungodly will perish. The just, therefore can endure this life and look to a glorious future, but those who have lived a wicked life will never see it. He said: You are not a better judge than God, nor wiser that the Most High. Better that many now living should perish, than the Law which God has set before them should be despised. God has given clear instructions to all in this world, telling them how to attain life and how to avoid punishment. The ungodly have refused to obey Him, they have adopted their own futile ways. They make deceit and dishonour their goal and even deny the existence of the Most High. They have rejected His Law and repudiated His promises; they have neither put faith in His decrees nor done what He commanded.
2 Esdras 7:25 Therefore, Ezra, it is emptiness for the empty and fullness for the full.
Reference: Revised English Bible Apocrypha. Some verses abridged.
Hear This, Foolish People Jeremiah 5:21
A fool is not someone who is either uneducated or lacking in mental capacity. Basically, their problem is a lack of humility. Sooner or later, this makes them a loser. The Bible says ‘fools despise wisdom and instruction’, and so ‘they set an ambush for their own lives’. Proverbs 1:7 & 18. Although this is the common pattern of folly, there are many variations on it. Just as the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, so folly begins with a denial of God and His authority.
Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart “There is no God”. What matters most is what people believe in their heart. The greatest fool is he whose mouth is full of God talk, but in his heart, he believes none of it.
Psalm 94:7 The Lord does not see, the God of Jacob does not perceive. In other words, we can do as we please- if we deny the existence of a God, who knows what we do, and has power and authority to do something about it. We can be sure, He does care about His creation.
Psalm 94:8-11 Understand, O dullest of people- fools, when will you be wise?
He who made the ear and eye, does He not hear and see?
Does He who disciplines nations, not punish? He teaches men knowledge.
The Lord knows the thoughts of man, He knows that they are futile.
God knows our thoughts, words and actions. Only a fool would think that the One who created our intricate bodies, would be deaf or blind. The fool is one who thinks they have beaten the system, outwitted any god, in order to have a life of purely their own choices. Those who count on God’s non existence for their freedom and lifestyle, are themselves lacking the common sense that they were born with.
The writings of the prophets have much to say about the self destroying folly of those who reject God and have gods of their own making. Even atheism is a type of religion. Isaiah talks about the deception that comes with idolatry, making it impossible to recognise folly for what it is. He told of a man who cuts down a tree, used half for firewood and makes a god out of the rest:
Isaiah 44:20 He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him, he cannot save himself, or say: Is there not a lie in my right hand?
Self confidence is a powerfully seductive virtue, displacing painful self doubt and uncertainty. It is therefore, desirable, in today’s world to be sure of yourself, a person of action and confidence. The best thing for anyone’s life, is to be sure of and follow the right path, as set out for us in the Bible. The writers of the wisdom literature in the Bible give many examples of the types of foolish behaviour and their consequences.
Isaiah 55:2 Why do you spend your money on that which is not bread and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
The answer to this last question, the only thing that does finally satisfy, is both priceless and free – the mercy and love of Almighty God.
Reference: D Keyes
Hurtling Toward Oblivion
At present, we are behaving like insane passengers on an aircraft, who are busy dismantling it as it flies along!
Jesus knew how it would be in the world at the time of the end – “Just as it was in the days of Noah....In the days before the flood, they ate and drank and married until the day that the flood came and swept them all away. It will be like that on the Day when the Son of man is revealed.” Matthew 24:37-39
If God has called us for such a time as this, He has His reasons. His message is the only hope and He has asked us to bear that message to those without hope. Why has He picked us for these times? We cannot know, but be sure that it is a privilege and let us live ready, willing and able for whatever He has planned.
Progress and profusion are the hallmarks of civilization and we are seeing an exponential
increase in most everything – more and more, faster and faster. At first the momentum was gradual, imperceptible, checked by wars, the dark ages, plagues, etc, but in recent times, it has accelerated- the curve of every graph steepening like a mountain rising from a plain. Never before have we seen such speed and power as we have available today. Never before such profusion in everything from population to pollution.
Because progress proves so alluringly proficient, we built our entire economy around its twin engines of proliferation and differentiation. Progress has delivered on a grandiose scale, leaving us gratified and awed. To continue in the direction we are going is our only apparent option. Even if we wanted to stop, slow down or change direction, we would not know how to do so. But, why, who in their right mind wants to change our modern world?
The world economic system now dwarfs all the other forces in society. Progress and the economy are directly related. We can expect more and more, faster and faster as profusion expands and the world economy grows exponentially.
A recession is obviously not the preferred condition for any society. Therefore, people and systems will work to return to the condition of progress and economic prosperity, thus leading to more profusion of everything.
We have developed lifestyles so habituated to progress, that it is now very difficult to change or even slow this process. Progress is irreversible – based on the contention that we are addicted to it, therefore we are quite willing to accept whatever profusion comes our way. Much of it is not good for us or the world, but we don’t do anything about it because we are so dependent on always moving onward and upward.
Now, however, something dramatic, something different is happening in our generational shift. Life pace and change are escalating wildly. Without our permission, history has picked up speed, turbo charged by progress.
In the 1970s, many doomsayers made dramatic and somewhat premature assertions of how population, pollution, etc would cause the end of the world. By the 1980s the shock had worn off and people now look on progress as an asset, not as a threat, but as a promise. The entire concept changed from a depressing topic with apocalyptic implications, to an exhilarating one, with prosperity and growth to be encouraged.
I assume that most people reading this know about the presence of fallenness in the world, derived from Adam and Eve’s “fall” from perfection into sin. Even those not spiritually minded can see that there is a distortion in everything that constantly thwarts perfection. Without first understanding fallenness, it is impossible to fully explain what is happening in the world around us. It is like trying to understand infectious disease without knowing about bacteria.
When we understand fallenness, then we know why the many advantages we have in progress still do not offset the serious problems in the world system. With each new thing that profusion adds to the world stage, there is a downside that must be acknowledged, anticipated and dealt with. We realise why Utopia did not show up as expected.
We once thought that science would solve our problems. It has, indeed solved many, but has created additional ones, from weaponry to pollution. Antibiotics have resulted in widespread microbial resistance. Abundant food has resulted in unprecedented obesity.
Progress has put power and weapons without regard to wisdom, into the hands of the leaders of nations, the military, the media, the entertainment industry, etc. All our knowledge has not ushered in a brave new world, it has simply increased our ability to perpetrate evil. There are more and more people, six billion and rising, in the world. This is not evil, the Lord said to increase and populate the earth, so we have. Each person is a separate, individual moral agent. Fallenness coupled with profusion, more people, more technology, more weapons, more mobility, means ever increasing statistics such as crimes, accidents, disease, and wars over land and resources. No matter what topic we choose we can find the good and the bad growing side by side. If we list all the positives of progress, it would be a very long list, but when we list the negatives we see such a daunting litany of problems that they threaten the very viability of our society.
If the negatives are sufficiently dangerous, they cannot be offset by the positives, no matter how beneficial the positives are. If we fail to grasp this principal, we will also fail to anticipate the cataclysmic dangers of our future. No matter how large the quantity and quality of the positive, if the negative is harmful enough, it wins. This principal of lethality applies to all systems, from the individual to companies, nations, species, etc.
To summarize, then, the world is always experiencing profusion. As this increases, we have much new positive, but also much new negative, all growing at an alarmingly rapid rate. No amount of positive can offset the negative if it reaches a certain threshold of lethality. It will prove fatal to our present world system. We have no possible option but to continue in this fatal direction because of our dependency on progress.
These days are not about fear, they are about privilege. These days will not be dominated ultimately by the chaos of worldly forces but by the sovereignty of God.
“I have told you these things, so that you might have peace” explained Jesus. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”
It is time to start living as if we believed it.
Reference; Hurtling toward oblivion, Richard Swenson
The Real Stumbling Block
The Gospel of the Kingdom of God, as preached in the Bible, is declared in 1 Corinthians 1:22-25, to be a “stumbling block”. The message given to us through the Bible does not hide from the reality of this difficulty of belief. Where other worldviews might downplay the problems within their respective systems, the Bible is uniquely forthright about that which is hard for us to understand. Logically, the existence of a difficulty in a worldview message is not sufficient to reject it. That may be a sign it is worth sincere examination. Usually, nothing worthwhile is easy. G.K. Chesterton wrote: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried”.
It is one thing for a worldview to be difficult because its truths are profound and complex, it is another for a worldview to be incoherent or ‘deep and mysterious”. Many have pretentious ideas and contradictory sentiments wrapped in sophisticated packaging.
It is true that there are difficult doctrines in Christianity, such as the Trinity, the incarnation and Christ’s substitutionary atonement. But the primary problem with the Gospel, arises from its indictments of the human heart and its proclamation that humanity is incapable of saving itself. The Gospel says that every person is spiritually dead and we can do nothing in our own strength about it. Only the saving work of Christ can make us alive to God. To humanity, this means we cannot rely on ourselves to make a better future. This is the real ‘stumbling block’ – people hold on to their own merit and refuse to acknowledge the Creator.
In secular humanism, unreliable humanity is their only choice for improvement, as in that worldview, there is no alternative. As a result, frustration arises when crime rates keep rising, promises are broken and treaties violated. Cultures persist in their hatred of other peoples.
Embracing the God who gives so selflessly, changes the follower of Christ from a self centered person to a selfless one and is one effect of what the Scripture calls ‘sanctification’. It is a process by which the Holy Spirit floods the life of one who puts their trust in the Lord Jesus and transforms that life.
Followers of Christ can still sin, as we are living in this fallen world, but this sanctification process gradually (in many cases, dramatically) changes that person into one who believes and trusts in God and genuinely tries to live sinlessly. Paul refers to this transformation as becoming ‘a new creation’ and Jesus calls the beginning of the process ‘born again’.
In other worldviews, people suffer from the impure reflections of those deities and atheism has only unreliable humanity to support it. God is the selfless moral example, as demonstrated at Calvary. When our sanctification causes us to reflect God’s selflessness, we are on the way to more perfectly reflecting the true image of God.
Reference: Apocalypse Later, by A.H.Murray
If you live a life, doing good things and keep on the right side of the law, then will you go to heaven? In the humanist or atheistic worldview, good person-ism is defined this way; if we all live the good life that we are capable of, then we create a heaven on earth.
Whether we strive for nirvana, moksha or utopia, we can attain them only if we do or give something first. Thus, whether religious or secular, each of these worldviews has as their primary requirements, set conditions and tasks to be achieved. They all demand time, effort and sometimes, pain, in the attempt to get there.
From a natural point of view, nature rewards only the strong. The ultimate authorities in such worldviews do not give freely, they demand resources for only hoped for favours. All worldviews and beliefs have a reflective character about them. We reflect the attributes of what we worship. Just as children imitate their parents, the adherents of any particular religion or lifestyle will emulate the words and deeds of their chosen deities or heroes. Therefore if someone follows a demanding deity, then their actions and character will reflect a ‘take’ mentality.
Our present world situation of conflict, based on competition for resources, is the logical result of the purely naturalistic and atheistic view of the world. In that worldview, sheer chance is how we exist and fairness is random. Also random, is who has resources, and who does not; who has the power to take them and who is powerless. Survival of the fittest is the end game, which really equates to ‘might makes right’. When it comes to putting an end to the self-centredness that gives birth to conflict, there is no deity better than the only actual deity, the God of the Bible. Indeed, God in Christ is the very embodiment of selflessness, the opposite of what we see around us.
As He is described in the Bible, God is the One who communes with us through His Holy Spirit. He has revealed Himself to be a Being of pure love. If it is true that we imitate those we look up to, then when we commit ourselves to reflecting God’s self giving nature, we must end that selfishness that brings conflict.
It has been argued that with socialism and communism, humanity has already tried this kind of social selflessness and failed. They do not succeed because they are fatally flawed in their fundamental assumptions. They both say that humanity, unaided by spiritual regeneration, can be trusted to overcome its selfishness and create its own utopia. It is also fatal for the State to enforce selflessness. Secular humanism, too suffers from the flawed assumption that humanity is capable of natural selflessness.
All this proves that we are incapable of true selflessness apart from a Spirit dominated, regenerated nature that reflects the selflessness, not of creation, but of the Creator.
Reference: Apocalypse Later, by A.H. Murray
In a society which gives unthinking service to the consumer worldview, Christian conversion is the most subversive act possible. It involves a radical shift of worldview - a denial of the most basic creeds of consumerism. It is an upheaval of one’s attitude to values, relationships, possessions and identity. Conversion is not giving mental assent to a set of ideas, it is entering a relationship. It affirms that relationship is at the heart of all that is real; relationship with the Creator and with other people. Christ’s summary of the old Testament Law, was to love God and others, and tack yourself on as an afterthought.
The Christian task is to overthrow those idols that take the place of the Creator. In themselves, these things may be quite worthy – money, sex, natural beauty, human reason, etc. But idolatry takes them and sets them as a goal or an end to themselves. The main idol of the West is consumerism, an unbalanced, unhealthy obsession with money and the pleasures it can provide. Wealth becomes the goal of aspiration, the source of satisfaction. Little wonder that Christ described avarice as a dangerous rival for the worship due to God.
It is only in changing our materialistic worldview and ‘losing’ ourselves, that we can actually find our true identity. Those cultural idols of cash and consumption that demand our servitude keep us from a relationship with God, that sets us free.
The word ‘radical’ means getting to the very roots of an issue. True radicalism is not calling for the overthrow of governments or the remaking of society. The radical is the person who challenges the worldview of materialism and affirms that relationship is the base for our lives, that identity has a source beyond the shopping mall and that morality is solid and objective. The radical is the lady, at the back of the church, who looks after her mother, gives herself to the service to others, prays to God, who gives her strength and identity and laughs at the ludicrous idea that money can buy happiness.
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, my friends, I implore you, by God’s mercy to offer your very selves to Him; a living sacrifice, dedicated and fit for His acceptance, the worship offered by mind and heart.
Conform no longer to the pattern of this present world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Then you will be able to discern the will of God and to know what is good, acceptable and perfect.
Bruce McKerras January 2011
Old Fashioned Values
It is common these days to hear people speak disparagingly of “old fashioned values”. We have grown up now, they say, and science has given us the answers to the questions about life that people used to need faith or superstition to cope with. We want to run our lives without restrictions or interference.
Before the Enlightenment, morality in the western world had a firm basis - the Word of God as revealed in the Bible. The Ten Commandments were basic to most of their laws. The Enlightenment was an era when the scientists and philosophers developed a faith that science and reason would give them the answers to life’s questions. The criteria of truth were “is it scientific? Can it be proved?” Of course when these tests were applied to God, the conclusion was – no.
So a dualism developed; there were facts which could be proved and there were values which were unprovable. As science became more trusted than faith and emotion, then moral values and religion were sidelined. Science now purports to account fully for such questions as: where did we come from? Where are we headed? Since Darwin, it is hard to claim that mankind is in any real sense different from apes.
This is the essence of materialism. The universe is a great machine, which runs by fixed laws, observed by science. Mankind is just a cog in this machine. To exclude anything not scientifically provable is known as scientism- science elevated to the status of religion. The first problem for scientism is that it is based on false logic. They say that the only things true and valid, are those which can be scientifically proven. But how can they know whether what they observe is all there is? All they can say is that they believe that only things which can be proved are true. They use a statement of faith to claim that faith is not valid. And, when they claim that mankind is progressing, they are making another statement of faith – which goes against the evidence, but is practically a modern creed.
Our legal system denies atheism, because how could we punish a criminal if he has no genuine free will? If he were ‘programmed’ then he cannot be blamed for his actions. Many people, in this modern world live by personal choice, that is selecting aspects of traditional morality which suit them and ignoring the rest. The consequences of this are, if we decide our own values, then who are you to criticize me? Another consequence of privatized morality is that areas beyond the immediate circle are of no concern to them. My neighbours wellbeing is not my business. Wider social evils continue unchecked.
When a society throws off Christian morality any abomination can result- Hitler, Stalin, Pol pot, etc. So, let’s have no nonsense about the world being better off without religion. The view of man as being in the image of God, with dignity and a firm, comprehensive set of morals, are our only protection against anarchy and breakdown of society.
The Enlightenment threw out their Judeo-Christian heritage not because it was proved untrue or because it did not fit the facts, but because they wanted to be free of old traditions and by denying the existence of a Creator, they gave themselves a free hand to shape their civilization. Sadly, this experiment has resulted in ever increasing wars and crime with terrible social and personal tragedies.
Bruce McKerras January 2011
God Looks With Favour On The Humble Isaiah 66:2
One of the greatest absurdities in this world, is human pride. We all live in the earth that God created, eat the food that He provides, and breathe His air. All provided for us by His sustaining power and love. Yet, people break God’s Laws repeatedly. In our world, one of the few certainties is that each one of us will die. The Christian faith says that we all will then appear before our Creator for the evaluation of our lives. The incongruity of human pride is that it cannot tolerate this future, but invents scenarios such as total oblivion, or instant admission to heaven.
Pride focuses on human independence, self sufficiency, power and progress, not on the fragility of our health and the inevitability of death. Pride makes it easy to think we are good at heart and our failings were not our fault. It does not consider that the moral failings of the last 100 years, are the result of fallen human nature.
The Bible uses humour to deflate the proud person. Jesus used absurd images, like logs in the eye, camels through the eye of a needle and blind guides. He used satire to demonstrate humility. God’s standard of excellence is so high that as we try to live up to it, we are faced with our inability to reach it. To try, is to be reminded again of our ultimate need for the mercy of God.
We could think, as we strive toward a standard, that we can never reach in this life, that frustration must result. But, in our inability to live completely Christ like lives, note two vital points. Firstly, the entire Christian faith hinges on the promise of God, through Jesus, to forgive those who come to Him in humility and faith. Without this promise, Christian faith would not exist. It means that true Christians need never fear that because of falling short, they will be rejected. Our attitude must be gratitude to God for having already forgiven us. This is not because we deserved it, but because of what Jesus did on our behalf and which we received by accepting salvation as a free gift.
Secondly, even though we inevitably fall short of the standard of Christ-likeness, as we strive towards it, the more we become better humans and display to those around us the qualities of courage, forgiveness, humility and love. Remember the incident in the Temple, where Jesus pointed out the widow, who had put all she had into the collection box. A humble person, without much, but Jesus wanted us to use her as a shining example of how we can use what we have to make a difference.
Reference; True Heroism, by D. Keyes.
Isaiah 29:19 Once more, the humble will rejoice in the Lord.
James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord and He will lift you up.
2 Chronicles 7:14 If My people humble themselves....then I will forgive them.
1 Peter 5:5 God shows favour to the humble.
Psalm 18:27 You save the humble, but humiliate the high and mighty.
Isaiah 2:12 The Lord has a day in store for the proud- they will be humbled.
Ecclesiasticus 7:17 Humble yourself to the uttermost, for the doom of the ungodly is fire and worms.
Zephaniah 2:3....seek righteousness, seek humility and it may be that you will find shelter on the day of the Lord’s vengeance.
God’s Glory Shared With Humanity
If the God of the Christian faith is true, it means that there is not a random process behind the order and beauty of the universe. It means, that at the highest level there is not indifference to the human condition, there is actually the intelligent mind of a Creator, who is the source of all life and cares for what He has made. In His Word, given to us, we are told that we are made in His image and each human has a special destiny. We are glorious creations of God, but through choosing to live independently, in self sufficiently and rebellion against Him, we are separated from His ultimate plan for humankind. Thank God, because He is a God of mercy, He has opened a door to forgiveness and reconciliation and a renewal of life through the life and death of Jesus, the Messiah. This means that we can, in spite of living in a fallen world, still reflect something of God’s character. This is true human greatness, or heroism. One does not need to be a Mother Teresa or an evangelist. Heroism is compatible with an ordinary life, lived well. If the Creator Himself is mindful of us, then our goal is that He will eventually say of our life, “Well done, you good and faithful servant”. The meaning of life is found in our relationship to this mindful God.
Psalm 8:5-6 Yet, You have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honour. You have given them dominion over the works of Your hands, you have put all things under their feet.
The idea of dominion implies a free agency to mankind. That is, we are actors, not robots in this cosmic production. The mindfulness of a personal and absolute God and the task of dominion is the starting point for our heroism. As we look at this task, we are brought back to its core, which is imaging the character of God. We must reflect the values of our Creator, having been made ‘a little lower than Him’. Jesus Christ was the perfect example for us, so that we can learn what glory and honour means in our world. The virtues that He displayed are good for us, as they reflect the character of the God who created us to do them.
Sin is not only violating moral rules. It is described by Paul in Romans 3:23; as falling short of the glory of God. For example, Ahab was King in Israel and to satisfy his greed and his wife, he murdered one of his subjects and took over his land. Elijah met him there and told him. “You have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord.” He had broken God’s laws, and in so doing, he violated the character and glory of God, by making himself into a misshapen image of his Creator. Therefore he had ‘sold himself’.
The Bible is largely a story of God dealing with the human race. The story takes us from Creation and Fall, through the dramas of Israel, to the incarnation of Christ- His life, death and resurrection. God’s Spirit came to build the Church and spread the Gospel of the redemption of His people. Eventually, Christ will Return, this time as a King.
We are part of that story. By the way we live, we can help or hinder the work of bringing the world back to that righteous state that God intended. Each person has the opportunity to play a unique part in this cosmic drama, and it is written that we “shall stand before Him” – to survive that examination, to please our Creator, that is true heroism and glory.
Reference: True Heroism, by D. Keyes
Lead Me in The Everlasting Way
Psalm 139:1-3 Lord, You have examined me. You know me in rest and in action. You discern my thoughts from afar. You track my travels and all the paths I take.
Psalm 139:4 For there is not a word that I speak, but You, Lord know all about it.
Psalm 139:5 You keep close guard behind and before me and place Your hand upon me.
Psalm 139:6 Knowledge so wonderful is beyond my grasp; it is so lofty I cannot reach it.
Psalm 139:23-24 Examine me, God, and know my mind. Test me and understand my anxious thoughts. Watch lest I follow any path that grieves You, lead me in the everlasting Way.
Psalm 145:18-19 The Lord is near to all who call to Him in sincerity. He fulfils the desire of those who fear Him, He hears their cry for help and saves them.
Psalm 145:20 The Lord watches over all who love Him, but the wicked , He will utterly destroy.
Psalm 145:21 My tongue will declare the praises of the Lord and all people will bless His holy Name forever and ever.
Isaiah 66:5 Hear the word of the Lord; you that revere His word. Your fellow countrymen who are hostile to you and spurn you because you bear My name. They ridicule you, but they themselves will be put to shame.
Psalm 126:1-3 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like a people renewed in health. Our mouths were full of laughter and we sang aloud for joy.
Then, among the nations, it was said; The Lord has done great things for them.
Great things, indeed, the Lord did for us and we rejoiced!
Reference: REB. Some verses abridged
PRAYERS FOR THE EXILES OF ISRAEL
2 Chronicles 6:36-39 Should Your people sin against You [and who is free of sin?] and should You, in Your anger give them over to enemies, who exile them to lands far and near then, if they have a change of heart and turn to You, saying: We have sinned – then if in the land of their exile, they pray wholeheartedly to their God, looking toward the Land which You gave to their forefathers, from heaven- hear their supplications and maintain their cause. Forgive Your people their sins against You, let Your priests be clothed with salvation and Your loyal servants rejoice in prosperity
Baruch 3:1-8 Lord almighty, God of Israel, to you the soul in anguish and the fainting spirit cry out. Hear and have mercy, Lord, for we have sinned against you. You are enthroned forever; we are forever passing away. Now Lord almighty, God of Israel, hear the prayer of the men of Israel and of the sons of those who sinned against you. They did not heed the voice of the Lord their God, and so we are in the grip of adversity. Do not call to mind the misdeeds of our forefathers but remember at this time your power and your name, for you are the Lord our God, and we shall praise you, Lord. It is for this that you have put into our hearts the fear of you; to make us call on your name. And we shall praise you in our exile for we have renounced all the wrong doing of our forefathers who sinned against you. Today we are exiled in the lands where you have scattered us to be punished for all the sins of our forefathers, who rebelled against the Lord our God.
Baruch 4: 21-37 Take heart My children. Cry out to God; He will rescue you from the power of your enemies. With mourning and tears, I watched you go, but God will give you back to me, with gladness and joy forever. My children, endure in patience the wrath God has brought on you, but soon you will see your enemies destroyed- soon put your foot on their neck. They that rejoiced at your downfall, will grieve at their own desolation. Jerusalem - look Eastwards and see the joy that is coming to you from God. They come, the sons from whom you were parted, from East and West, they come. Assembling at the word of the Holy one and rejoicing in the Glory of God.
Daniel 9:15-19 Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt by Your strong hand winning for Yourself a Name that lives on to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. Lord by all Your saving deeds, we beg that Your anger and wroth depart from Jerusalem – Your holy city. Listen, our God, to your servants prayer and supplication. For Your own sake, Lord, look favourably on Your Land which lies desolate.
God, incline Your ear and open Your eyes, look upon Your Land and Your people, who bear Your name. Lord hear, Lord forgive, Lord listen and act, for Your own sake, do not delay, we implore you.
Psalm 118:25-29 Lord deliver us, we pray. Lord grant us Your prosperity.
Blessed is He who enters in the name of the Lord, from the Temple of God
The Lord has given us light. You are our God and we praise You.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.
2 Maccabees 1:27-29 Bring together those of Your people who are dispersed, set free those exiled among the heathen. Look favourably on those despised, let the nations know that You are our God. Punish our arrogant and insolent oppressors and, as promised by Moses, plant Your people in Your holy Land.
Isaiah 25:9 On the Day of their deliverance, the people will say; See – this is our God, we have waited for Him and He will deliver us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited. Let us rejoice and exult in His deliverance. Reference: Revised English Bible and Apocrypha.