Wednesday, December 10, 2014

PHILOSOPHY


Philosophy

 Mention the word ‘philosophy’ and people tend to think of Plato, Socrates and maybe Aristotle. My old professor, who had earned doctorates in theology and philosophy said, ‘There are two general fields of knowledge – theology, the study of God, and philosophy, the study of creation… Christian philosophy is man’s scientific study of God’s universe in nature and in culture as viewed through the spectacles of Scripture (Calvin).’ Francis Nigel Lee.

To ask whether or not one ought to use the Bible to interpret nature and culture is to ask a philosophical question. Related to this question is the ‘chicken and egg’ dichotomy of faith and reason. Which came first? Is it Thomas Aquinas’s ‘I know so that I can believe’ or is it Augustine’s ‘I believe so that I can know’? We believe that Augustine wins here. Faith comes before Reason. For, from Santa to Satan, who has never doubted what they first believed? First we believe (i.e., we have faith). Second we test those beliefs (i.e., we apply reason).

For the child a bite out of a cookie and wrapped presents on Christmas morning may be proof enough that Santa exists. However, as the Apostle puts it, ‘When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.’ 1 Corinthians 13:11. The adult knows that the red-suited fat man is simply a cultural myth. But what happens when the adult looks at nature and culture and sees evil? Should he or she wax philosophical about theft, rape and murder and insist that these things are not evil because these kinds of things happen in the animal kingdom and human beings, after all, are just highly evolved animals? Or should he or she view these things through the spectacles of Scripture and see clearly that they are indeed evil? Well, it all depends on whether you believe the Bible to be God’s revelation to us or not. And whether or not you believe in the veracity of Scripture is based upon your presuppositions. A presupposition is a thing assumed beforehand.

Whereas Christian Philosophy scientifically studies God’s universe in nature and in culture through the Scriptures, non-Christian Philosophy does not. Why? It is presuppositional. The former has faith that the Bible is God’s revelation to mankind. The latter has faith it is not. However, note that for both it is a matter of faith first and only secondly comes reasoning. But on what grounds does one accept or reject the Bible as God’s Word? Philosophical! And what is your philosophy based on? It starts with faith and then reasons from it.

Christian Philosophy begins with God, the Triune God, i.e., the Father, the Word/Son and the Spirit. Christian Philosophy sees the Godhead containing three Persons as the original One and the Many, Unity in Diversity, the General and the Particular, and sees His universe in nature and culture. These reflect the Creator. The character of God is the measure of all moral good, while evil is that which is defined by God in His Word. Thus, whether considering Santa or Satan, Christian Philosophy does so from the vantage point of God speaking in His Word by His Spirit. Therefore, ‘See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ’ Colossians 2:8.   

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

MORAL INJURY: That Accusing Conscience


That Accusing Conscience

 “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” Proverbs 28:13. 

Introduction

All of us are guilty of trying to cover up our sins. An example from the Bible would be David and his sins with Bathsheba. David tried to cover up his sin of adultery. He tried to manipulate Bathsheba’s husband Uriah. Uriah didn’t cooperate the way David wanted him to. Next thing David had Uriah sent to his certain death.

Sin is a lustful desire that begins in the heart. Then, like a serpent, it slithers out from you. And once it’s out it’s hard to put the lid on again – yet we try! Sin truly is the opening up of a can of worms. The more you try to cover up your sins the harder it gets.

There’s a certain amount of truth in the saying, “Give a man enough rope and he’s sure to hang himself.” We try to cover our sins because we don’t want others to find out about them. Maybe you don’t want the embarrassment. Maybe it’s to protect your good name. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll end up in prison. But every last one of us who tries to cover our sins knows this, that we are guilty! So we try to hide our guilt, maybe you try to hide your guilt from the police.

Maybe you try to hide your guilt from your neighbour, your family, mum and dad, husband or wife. But more than anything, we try to hide our guilt from ourselves! We’ll even lie to ourselves in our attempt to escape our guilt! We need to know that there is a proper and safe and most importantly, a biblical way to escape an accusing conscience. Otherwise we’ll find life most difficult at times. It will be a struggle to prosper. And we don’t necessarily mean prosper in the financial sense of the word. We’ll be talking more about the prosperity that comes with living with a guilt-free conscience.

In the following I’d like us to consider what it is we are actually doing when we try to cover our sins, when we should be confessing and forsaking them. We need to consider what is going on internally as well as externally.

Sin is given birth in the mind and finds an outlet into the world through our bodies. Adam lusted after the forbidden fruit and then tried to cover his sin with a fig leaf. In the following I want us to mainly focus on what is happening internally when we try to cover our sins. Therefore, we need to look at the conscience, for to cover your sins externally is simply the attempt to appease the internal conscience.

The general gist of what we’re looking at is, The way to remove the obstacle of an accusing conscience is to repent and believe the Gospel.

We’ll look at three things to do with the conscience. We’ll consider how the conscience works. This will deal with under the heading, The Active Conscience. Next we’ll see how the conscience accuses under the heading, The Accusing Conscience. And finally we’ll consider how the conscience may be silence, The Appeased Conscience.

The Active Conscience

An active conscience is a conscience that either accuses or excuses you. Everyone has a conscience, though sometimes it’s more active in some than others. But how does the conscience accuse? First we need to define what we mean by conscience. “SCIENCE” is to know and “CON” means together. Therefore literally “conscience” means “to know together.” Hence to go against your conscience means that you do not have all it together, that you are in two minds about something. It means that something in your mind is gently nudging you. There are times when that something in your mind screams at you – like a schoolteacher we once had – “To get back in line!”

The dictionary says that the conscience is: “[That] faculty by which distinctions are made between moral right and wrong.” Therefore, the conscience is a built-in gauge all of us have. It measures right and wrong. Or, if you will, it’s a little policeman each of carries around with us. He blows his whistle when we’re about to do something wrong. Then he comes and thumps on our door after we ignore him.

What about the flash of guilt when the police point their radar gun at your car? Your mind starts to go into overdrive as your try to think of an excuse! I was stopped in Toronto back in 1977 just after Canada had switched to metric. “Officer, my speedometer still works on the old scale!” “Well maybe this ticket will help you learn arithmetic!”

The conscience is that aspect of us which says, “I shouldn’t have thought/said/done that!” We hardly know our conscience is there until it points its accusing radar gun at us! This is what you call a pang of guilty conscience.

When you think about it, God knows all about the skeletons in your closet. As we try to cover our sins we may end up wrestling our conscience for years on end. However, you should know that the conscience only accuses when there is something wrong.

Our conscience speaks to us and says, “You’ve got a problem here.” It might be instantaneous, “The checkout chick undercharged you for the dog food. Tell her!” Or your conscience may remind you of something from years ago. “What about the time you cheated on the school exam?” ”What about that income tax return you lodged?” “What about that used car you sold?” Well, that’s the policeman knocking on your door.

A person can wrestle for years with the guilt of sin. Perhaps a lie they told that caused pain and anguish to others. Perhaps it was something they stole. Perhaps it was some extra-marital affair they had. Whatever! We never really notice our conscience when we are doing the right thing. It excuses us, (Romans 2:15). It only accuses us when we go against it, when we cross it!

I once worked for a company that seldom commended anyone for doing a good job. However, if anyone did anything wrong they were condemned! That company, like your conscience, always expects you to do the right thing. God commands that everyone be perfect as He is perfect. That’s why He made us in His own image and likeness, perfect! We are supposed to reflect Him. Hence God has given each of us a conscience to keep us in line.

The conscience measures our actions against our highest morals. If you have a low set of morals, your conscience will let you away with more. The highest set of morals are God’s Ten Commandments, the summary of God’s Law.


Now, being made in the image and likeness of God means that we also have God’s Decalogue stamped on our heart. Christian or no, it doesn’t matter, all mankind has the Decalogue engraved on its heart. Romans 2:15 tells us we show by our actions that we have God’s Law written on our heart. In other words, each of us has a copy of God’s code of conduct nailed to the wall of our heart. Yes, the print is obscured by sin, like the house rules on the wall of a grubby pub! Nicotine stains, beer stains, blood stains from pub-brawls make it harder to read the notice on the wall. And the more intoxicated the person is, the less he tends to care about the rules!

Society behaves much like a drunk regarding God’s Law. It tends to use the Decalogue as he would a pub dartboard! Now society does collectively what we do as individuals. Society as a whole tries to muzzle the little policeman whose station is in the head. But what about the practicing Christian? He has more than the little policeman. The Christian has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-11). Therefore the Christian has a more difficult time trying to silence his conscience. The Christian becomes guilty of grieving and even quenching the Spirit if He ignores God’s Commandments. As the Prophet Micah says: “[The] LORD Has shown you, O man, what is good.”

When we do the right thing we are doing what is good. When we don’t do what is good we begin to hear from our conscience.

The Accusing Conscience

To talk about the accusing conscience is to talk about feelings of guilt. Guilt can be a real thorn in the flesh. None of us likes the feeling of guilt. So we try to appease our accusing conscience, which is to say in the words of Proverbs 28:13 that we try to “cover our sins.”

What is sin? Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” Westminster Shorter Catechism question and answer 14. Sin is any failure to measure up to what God requires, or disobedience to His commands. Sin is disobeying or not conforming to God’s Law in any way.

As we sense the guilt of sin we may try to rationalise our sin. We can become preoccupied with our sense of guilt. John MacArthur Jnr. Says,

Deep in our hearts, we all know something is desperately wrong with us. Our conscience constantly confronts us with our own sinfulness. Try as we might to blame others, or seek psychological explanations for how we feel, we cannot escape reality. We cannot ultimately deny our own consciences. We feel guilt, and we know the horrible truth about who we are on the inside.[1]

The Puritan Richard Sibbes wrote in the 17th century, “The conscience is the soul reflecting upon itself.”[2] The conscience, then, is you taking the measuring stick to everything you think, say, or do.

Yet we try to reason with our conscience as we try to rationalize our sin. With think things like, “It wasn’t really my fault!” “If only he or she had done this or that!” “If only he or she had been somewhere else!” “If only – if only – if only…”

Sometimes a person cannot get on with their life because of an accusing conscience. They can go over the same old argument day in day out, day after day ad nauseam as they try to get rid of the feeling of guilt. David the Psalmists puts it like this in Psalm 32:3-4, “When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” David was trying to cover his sins. He was trying to conceal them.

And all he did was groan all day long! That Puritan Sibbes compared the chastisement of a violated conscience to “a flash of Hell!” When you think about it, Hell is the place where people are preoccupied with a guilty conscience forever! But as Sibbes says we here only experience a flash of Hell!

Occasionally there’s a report on the news of someone turning themselves in to the police. Perhaps someone who has robbed a bank, or murdered someone, or whatever. It can be something they did years ago, decades. I remember seeing one about a woman who had committed a crime back in 1970. However, her conscience finally got the better of her. She couldn’t handle its accusations any longer. So she turned herself in!

We cannot handle an accusing conscience! An accusing conscience is something like a sewer. An accusing conscience reminds us of something vile sludging around beneath the surface. In big cities occasionally a sewer will explode! Methane gas can build up, and if it ignites then Whammo! A heavy manhole cover can fly into the air! Well, in a similar way some people just seem to explode!

Feelings of guilt can cause a person to act in all sorts of abnormal ways. And our verse is telling us that we won’t prosper when guilt is weighing us down. It’s like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress whose burden was a backpack full of guilt that needed to be gotten rid of.

Now, guilt can be felt for a variety of reasons. But every single one of those reasons has to do with right and wrong. In other words, guilt always has to do with morals. This is because the conscience only accuses when there is something wrong.

What if, what if, what if it is you yourself who has been wronged? What if you are blaming yourself for some terrible thing that happened to you? What if you are carrying the guilt of having been abused as a child? “If only, if only, if only I had done what I was told.” Well, there are at least two ways we can look at this

1.    You can plead your innocence before God.
2.    You can continue to reason with your conscience.

Surely the right thing to do is to plead your case before God. God knows what happened to you. If you’re innocent He knows it. He saw it. And the main thing that matters is that God knows that it was you who were wronged. But then there is option 2, which is no option, is it?
For option 2. is to continue to reason with your conscience. And if you do that you will continue tormenting yourself.

But here’s something worth considering, and this is where it gets really difficult. It is sometimes possible that we blame God something terrible that happened to us. “God, why did You let this happen to me?” Now, if we keep in mind that our conscience only accuses us when there is something wrong, we won’t go too far wrong here.

Think about it, it is always wrong to blame God for sin, our sins or the sins of another. God is not the author of sin. God never sins against us. If a person was, let’s say, sexually abused as a child that person shouldn’t blame him or herself. But neither should they blame God. God hates sin! To be sure, the police should be called and child abusers ought to be arrested! And I know that there is no great solace in knowing that the abuser’s conscience will be accusing night and day. However, it’s true.

The Appeased Conscience

How is an accusing conscience silenced? Well, in a word, whenever your conscience accuses you of anything, even something of which you claim to be innocent, see that as your cue to plead before God! In other words, flee to God for refuge every time a pang of conscience hits. Continue to do this and your problem, whatever it is, will leave you. Therefore, run to God for mercy! Now, this doesn’t mean that you just pay God lip service. It doesn’t mean, “O, I tried that, but it doesn’t work!” Fleeing to God means begging Him for mercy.

Nowadays if someone has a pang of guilt we tend to say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself.” We might say, “You need to talk to someone about your problem.” And maybe so! But it’s God we need to talk to. We need to talk to God, not the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. God! Not the priest, the psychologist, the shrink. God! To be sure, a problem shared is a problem halved. So there is some benefit in talking to others about our problems with guilt. However, we need to seek audience with God, and not just to pay Him lip service!

Do you remember the Parable about the Pharisee and Tax Collector? The Pharisee prayed something to the effect, “God, I thank You that I’m so wonderful! I’m a super faster and a brilliant tither. I’m not like other people at all. In my own eyes I deserve better than this. But here I am stuck among a bunch of sinners including this debauched tax-collector!” Is this what we mean by fleeing to God? God forbid! Fleeing to God is pleading for His mercy when you are wracked with guilt and anguish of soul! Fleeing to God is the prayer of the Tax-collector, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” Fleeing to God is repentance. It is turning your back on sin!

You are sinning if you keep on wrestling with your conscience when you should be seeking God. But instead of fleeing to God we tend to keep on going over the same old thing in our head. And when we do this we cannot truly get on with life, because we’re too busy wrestling with our conscience!

It’s like Tarzan wrestling with a snapping crocodile! We’re forever splashing around in the depths of our sins! We are too busy trying to cover our sins without God! But look at Proverbs 28:13, “Whoever confesses and forsakes his sins will have mercy.” It doesn’t say perhaps will have mercy. It says you WILL have mercy! Mercy from what? Mercy from the Hell you’ve been having flashes of!

When you flee to God with your pangs of conscience you are fleeing from Hell. The Word says we are to repent, that is, we are to change our minds. Our minds are no longer to be split in two as we go against our conscience. But rather we are to turn our back on our sins – all sin! The Proverb says, “Confess them and forsake them.”

Look at the Proverb again as we try to tie it all together: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” Proverbs 28:13. We’ve seen that to cover your sins is the same as trying to appease a guilty conscience. I hope that has become clear to you, if wasn’t before. But what would happen if someone covered your sins for you?  Would that appease your conscience? Well, that’s exactly what’s happening when you keep on confessing and keep on forsaking your sins. It means that someone else is covering your sins for you. Why? Because this means that you are asking God to be merciful and cover your sins for you. And God by His grace and His mercy clears you of your guilt, even your guilty conscience! For that’s what happens when you confess your sins. You are exposing it for God to deal with it. And if you are coming before God with your sins, then you should know that God has already dealt with your sins and He has already cleared you of the guilt of that sin! As John MacArthur puts it, “True guilt has only one cause, and that is sin. And sin…is the very thing the gospel is given to conquer.[3]

The Gospel is the Good News of the Grace and Mercy of God in Jesus Christ. It’s the good news that Jesus Christ has delivered us from all our sins. It is the good news that He has conquered sin. It is the Good News that He has covered our sins – with His own shed blood! Christ takes away all our guilt. Yes, even the feelings of guilt! Therefore continue to confess yours sins to God through Jesus Christ and God will have mercy on you and grant you a clear conscience!

Conclusion

Christ’s shed blood sprinkles our hearts “from an evil conscience” Hebrews 10:22. His blood protects us from all accusations – even the accusations of Satan! So, the next time your conscience accuses you – flee to God with it! Don’t wrestle with it. Do what the Proverb says, confess it and forsake it. The more you do that, the less your conscience will accuse you. For “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.”




[1] John MacArthur Jnr., Biblical Counseling, p. 104.
[2] John MacArthur Jnr., Vanishing Conscience, p. 44.
[3] John MacArthur, Biblical Counseling, p. 104.

Monday, November 24, 2014

ABRAHAM: Lot's Lotto


LOT’S LOTTO

“Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan.” Genesis 13:11a.

Introduction

Have you ever thought about how many decisions you have to make in a lifetime? What colour of socks to put on, what breakfast cereal to eat, which woman to marry. We must make literally millions of decisions over a life-time. How do you know if your decision is a wise one or not? It’s especially hard to make a wise decision in those areas where God cuts you lots of slack. God doesn’t tell which socks to put on, which cereal to eat. However, there are some decisions in life which clearly demand a bit more thought.

There is a major decision confronting Lot in the text before us. So it will do us good to investigate what’s going on here. There was a bit of strife happening between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s. So Abram, the father of the faithful, put a proposition to Lot. Genesis 13:9, “Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me, if you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left”.

“Okay Lot, my nephew”, says Abram. “Which hand do you want – left or right? It’s your decision.” Lot’s going to have to live with what he chooses. He is going to have to live with the consequences of his decision.

There they are in the Promised Land. The land is still full of false-god-worshipping, child-sacrificing, sodomizing non-Christians. Do you get the picture? So you would think that Lot would seek wisdom as to what to do. It would seem that he was too quick to saddle up the horses and hitch up the wagon train. Think carefully before you make a life decision as you may live to regret it.

Choosing

“Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan.” Why did Lot choose what he chose? Well, first off let’s see if we can figure out how this situation arose. We need to know why Lot had to make his choice. We know that there was a bit of friction between Abram’s men and Lot’s men.  And we’re told back in Genesis 13:6 that the land was not able to support them. Both Abram and Lot had great possessions, we’re told. It’s like when you or I collect that much stuff that we’ve got nowhere to store it. So we need to get a bigger house for all our stuff!

When Dorothy and I were first married we bought a small house. I remember thinking to myself, as I drove the little rental removal van, “We don’t have very much stuff. Everything I possess can be packed into one tiny little van!” When we moved from Brisbane to Hobart, Tasmania we needed a much bigger van! And then when we moved back to Brisbane we needed an even bigger van again! But Abram and Lot have got that much stuff that a huge tract of land is not able to support them.

So what is really going on here what’s at the back of all this? So what if there’s a bit of strife between Abram’s men and Lot’s men. Couldn’t they have just ordered their men to stop fighting or be fired? Couldn’t they have just got rid of some of their stuff so that the land could support them? What was really happening here? Well, sometimes we get so caught up in things that we forget to look at God. What did the LORD say to Abram as recorded in Genesis 12:1? “Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house to a land I will show you.” Abram bought his kindred with him, didn’t he? He brought his father who died back in Haran.  And he brought his nephew Lot. Kindred! Abram loved his nephew Lot a lot. He loved him enough to risk his own life for him. But how much did Lot love his uncle Abe?

At this time Abram wanted Lot to split. Do we hear Lot make a heart-rending plea to Abram like Ruth to Naomi? “Entreat me not to leave you or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go I will go and wherever you lodge I will lodge your people shall be my people and your God, my God. Where you die I will die and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts you and me” Ruth 1:16-17. Is this how Lot felt about Abram? Lot and Abram had so much stuff that even the lush green land couldn’t support them. Ruth and Naomi had nothing. They were in a barren land in the middle of a severe famine. Ruth lifted her voice and wept! Did Lot lift up his voice and weep at the thought of being separated from his uncle? “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go towards Zoar.”

Lot saw that the land was like the delta of Egypt, fertile as anything. “I’ll have that,” he said like one of those people on a game show, you know, where all this stuff is paraded before your eyes on a conveyer belt. “Gimme the fridge, the antique clock, the stereo, the TV!” The Price is Right or is it? It all might look pleasant to the eyes, but what about the soul – your soul? The heavy choices you make have to be made with your eternal soul in view, and we’re not talking about those neutral things like fridges and clocks and stereos. We’re talking about the mechanisms behind our decision making. We’re talking about the impulses in your soul which cause you to choose the things you choose.

So then, why did Lot choose what he chose?  What caused him to make the decision he made? Did the devil make him do it? Was he free to choose the left hand or the right? Of course he was. But does sin and sinful nature have any bearing on our decisions?

When we lived in Canada we used to get the odd postcard from Dorothy’s brother who lived in Brisbane. There I was digging through ten feet of snow so that the mail-man could deliver to our house. We’d get these photographs of Dorothy’s brother on the Gold Coast or somewhere, sun, sand, surf, and palm trees! I’d like to say we came to Australia as missionaries or something. But instead I have to say that I just wanted to come in out of the cold!

Was Australia noted for its exemplary ethics and moral behaviour? Was it a land that honoured the living God? Did I really care about these things? As the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was pleasant to the eyes, so the land of the Bronzed Emu and the Red Kangaroo was pleasant to my eyes! We flew south-west into the sunset. Lot journeyed east towards the sunrise. Lot chose what he chose to satisfy his flesh and not his soul. Lot was looking at the temporal and not the spiritual. He was looking after his own “felt needs.”

At the time of Christ Jerusalem was crawling with man called Pharisees. Pharisees were the all-time experts at looking out for number one. Pharisees could take something spiritual, like God’s Moral Law, and use it for their own selfish gain. The Moral Law is the God-given guide on how to love God and your neighbour as yourself. The Pharisees used the Law as a back scratcher with which to pat themselves on the back. The Pharisees were oblivious to the spiritual nature of the Law. Their actions betrayed the deadness of their hearts! They didn’t even keep God’s Law outwardly, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for an example of that.

As Jesus said to the Pharisee Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” It stands to reason therefore that if one is born again one can see the kingdom of Satan. If you can see the kingdom of God in the world, by way of contrast, you can see the kingdom of Satan. But in order to see the kingdom of God you must look for it. You must seek it and its righteousness. Therefore you have to look deep into things.

Lot just had a superficial look, “Looks good, let’s go!” Abram had his eyes on the kingdom of God. He let Lot do the choosing. He knew that whatever Lot chose would be fine with him. But more than that, Abram knew it would be fine with God. For Abram knows that, “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” Romans 8:28.

By doing what he did Abram was making his calling and election sure. As the Apostle Peter writes, “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 1:10-11.

Abram was getting the hang of it, but Lot, it would seem, had a lot more to learn. Take the Pharisees for instance. When the Pharisees looked at the Law of God they saw only tablets of stone. Therefore their hard-hearted actions betrayed what they saw. They weren’t looking at, nor could they see, the Spirit in the writing on the stone. “Looks good! Let’s go!” said the Pharisees, but their souls were like dried walnuts, and they had rocks in their heads, because that is all they saw! They weren’t looking at the kingdom of heaven. They needed the Spirit in their hearts in order to discern things of a spiritual nature, such as the Decalogue.

But just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you won’t have the odd rock rattling around in your head. Look at Lot! But it does mean that you CAN make choices with the Kingdom of Heaven in view. However, sometimes we get distracted with the things of the world like Lot, especially those things that are pleasant to the eyes, like the well watered plains of the Jordan, like Tasmania or sunny Queensland! But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.

Beware of getting it the wrong way round, because it will affect all your decision-making, because you make all your choices according to what you see. You’ll always win in the end if you make your choices with the glory of God in mind. Because even your wrong decisions, those decisions that seemed so right at the time, those choices that brought you nothing but hardship, will have come from a pure heart. But know this, that in any resulting hardship your conscience will be clear. Why? Because you made your choice with the glory of God in mind, the Kingdom of Heaven at heart. But if you make your decisions any other way you choose, then you lose. Because as Jesus said when He rebuked Peter, “You are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” Matthew 16:23b.

So then, Lot is behaving a wee bit like a Pharisee might behave. As he gazed at the Jordan Valley he saw only the temporal and not the spiritual. Do we see any indication that Lot put God and his neighbour, even his uncle, first? No. What about Abram? Did Abram put God and his neighbour first? Of course he did. But Lot was putting himself and his own wellbeing first, wasn’t he? The proverbial juicy carrot was dangled before him and he went for it. And in so doing he was playing a game of chance, a game of Lotto!

Losing.

The choice was easy. It was a simple little choice. Choose which hand you want, the right hand or the left? Choose which tree you want, the tree of life, or, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, before you do, remember that you’ll be stuck with the consequences of your decision!

Lot played the game of Lotto and he lost. Why did he lose? It’s all to do with the LORD isn’t it? It’s all to do with providence God’s invisible hand. Lot wasn’t making a minor decision here, “Should I put on my blue socks, or, just keep on the one’s I’ve got on?” Lot knew all about God calling Abram. He knew all about God appearing to Abram. He knew all about the famine God sent upon the Promised Land. He knew all about God plaguing Pharaoh’s house on account of Sarai. He knew all about God delivering Abram and Sarai out of the land of Egypt. So why didn’t Lot say to Abraham, “Let’s take this matter before the LORD”? Why didn’t he head toward the altar Abram had built and seek an audience with the LORD? Do you think that perhaps Lot was a spiritually dead man at this point? Well you should note that Genesis 13:8 mentions the strife that was between Abram’s men and Lot’s men. Abram was head and representative of one house, and Lot was the head and representative of the other.  But there is no mention of any strife between Abram and Lot. In fact if you look at the end of Genesis 13:8 you’ll see that Abram says to Lot, “We are brethren.”

Now, it’s quite possible that Abram was saying to Lot, “We are brothers, we are relatives, we are kindred, therefore let us not fight.” This would of course fit with what the LORD said to Abram in Genesis 12:1 “Get out of your country, from your kindred.” And, make no mistake, God is separating Abram from his flesh and blood kindred, i.e., Lot. But let it be known that Abram and Lot are also kindred in spirit. They both serve the same God, i.e., the LORD who called Abram out of Ur of the Chaldeans.

And we won’t get into a debate as to when Lot was converted. Second Peter 2:8 tells us that Lot was “a righteous man.” Therefore it is God’s invisible hand that is sovereignly separating Abram and Lot. He is doing so for a purpose to which neither Abram nor Lot are privy. God is working all things for good and yet Lot is getting to make a choice with which he has to live. So again we see the sovereignty of God in all things, and we see the responsibility of man for his own actions. And clearly Abram had a grasp of these deeper things of God. Abram could just about have written the Proverb which says “The lot is cast into the lap, but it’s every decision is from the LORD” Proverbs 16:33.

“Okay, Lot, if you choose the left hand I’ll get the right. And if you choose the right then I’ll get the left. But whatever one you choose will be fine with me. Why? Well, whether you choose heads or tails I win. God has already taken care of the decision!”

The LORD has already told Abram to separate from his kindred in blood. Therefore Abram is simply being obedient to the revealed will of God. This is why Abram isn’t running around like an Ecumenical trying to keep everyone together at any and all costs! This passage helps us understand why the LORD permits so many different denominations in the church at large. The LORD would eventually split the descendants of Abram into twelve tribes.

Abram and Lot serve the same God, but the LORD would have them split like a cell and multiply – (Abram in particular). The LORD would eventually split Abraham’s descendants into twelve tribes. And since the time of the Reformation we’ve seen the same thing in the Church – cells splitting and multiplying. But if you think that there can be no unity in plurality then you need to look again at the triune God, the God who is multiple Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but one God: Plurality in Unity.

There are many different denominations around today. And there are even denominations who deny that they are a denomination! We have been separated because there is strife among the brethren. It is paradoxical, I know, but all these separations are for the sake of unity, and of course it complicates the issue, when some denominations are sectarian. It’s a complex issue. But, as did Abram and Lot, so all serve one and the same Master, albeit to a greater or lesser extent, as the case may be. Lot was far from perfect in his understanding, and so are some denominations!

Which of the two denominations would you align yourself with: Abram’s or Lot’s? Well, what were the Corinthians like? “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, I am of Christ” 1 Corinthians 3:4. Then Paul asks if Christ is divided? And we have to reply, certainly not! Were Abram and Lot not following the same LORD? If Abram and Lot followed the same LORD and yet were separated by the LORD, what is wrong with having different denominations? The whole idea is that we all should follow Christ! But truth be known, like Abram and Lot, some have their eyes on the LORD more than others. Therefore if you were going to align yourself with either Abram or Lot you’d choose Abram. Why? Because he’s focused on the kingdom of God and not his own felt needs!

When Lot had a major decision to make he forgot to include the LORD, it would seem.  He saw the things he wanted and he sought after them with gay abandon. How many times have we rushed in because the place just looked so inviting? “Oh it’s the house of my dreams.” So you buy it only to find that termites love the house too! It all looks good on the surface, but lean upon a wall and your hand will go through it. “Oh let’s go to Australia. It’s so sunny there!” Then you learn about the major skin cancer problem! And you’re afraid to let your little kids go out in it. We have to live with the results of a bad decision: For better or for worse in sickness and in health.

I was one of those people who’re converted from time to time just from reading the Bible. As a brand new baby Christian the first choice I had to make was, which church? Which denomination, (or non-denomination as some like to style themselves)? I’ll have you know that it’s a minefield out there. Choose the wrong one and you could be a looser for the rest of your Christian life! You cannot just close your eyes and put your fingers in your ears and hope for the best. If you do that, you are in danger of killing yourself spiritually. How many Christians do you know who are still playing around in the shallow end when they should be deep-sea diving? How many are still on milk when they should be chewing solid food, (on the meat of the Word). How many are still chasing after “signs and wonders” when they should be looking at Christ? As a brand new Christian I even found myself in the Kingdom Hall of the so-called Jehovah’s Witnesses one Sunday. Brand new Christians have not got a clue! I know because I used to be one. What price might I have paid for that choice? God is gracious.

What was the price that Lot would have to pay for his choice? Let’s see, the Apostle Peter refers to Lot living among the depravity and debauchery of Sodomites in Sodom. Peter in 2 Peter 2:8 says of Lot, “For that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.” As well as having to live with his own tormented soul, Lot would get to see the whole plain he chose destroyed by fire and brimstone pouring out of heaven. Lot would get to see his own wife become a pillar of salt. His own two daughters would think nothing of indecently assaulting him! O Lot, it might look like the Garden of Eden with its four river-heads, but there’s a venomous serpent hanging from EVERY tree in this garden!

Lot don’t treat life as a lottery. Consider what might be the consequences of your action. Life is not a game of chance. It’s not Lot’s Lotto. Life is not, “Yez spin the wheel and yez take yer chances!” No! You seek the will of God for those weightier decisions.

Conclusion

Dear reader, search the Scriptures., for only fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Lot should have sought counsel instead of “Looks good! Let’s go!” Remember the forbidden fruit in the Garden. What looks like a pineapple may actually be a grenade! To sum it all up in a verse of Scripture “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” Proverbs 3:5-6.

Abram let Lot make the choice. He trusted in the LORD to make the right decision. Lot trusted his own understanding and he lost out in the deal. Therefore let us all think carefully before we make a life decision as we may live to regret it.

Friday, November 21, 2014

ABRAHAM: Culture Conflict


CULTURE CONFLICT
“There was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock” Genesis 13:7.

Introduction

You may be familiar with some of the TV programs that came out of the 50s. “Leave It To Beaver” and that kind of thing, the almost too-good-to-be-true family shows. And what about all those TV Westerns from the 50s? The Lone Ranger, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates in Rawhide. We’ve all, no doubt, seen or a least have heard of these programs, if not in the original then as syndicated reruns.

The TV stations tend to show them when they’re not concerned about ratings. Anyhow, if you’re familiar with the likes of “Rawhide” or “Wagon Train” you won’t find it too hard to get a rough picture of what’s happening in the text before us. In today’s terms, Abraham is bringing Western Culture, i.e., civilization into a pagan land. Or, if you want to use the imagery of the old TV westerns, what we see before us is the start of “How The West Was Won. This is the beginning of the winning of the West. The wagon trains are coming with families. They’re coming to settle the land. They’re coming to cultivate it, to subdue it. They’re bringing their domesticated livestock. They are opening up a new frontier. They are bringing “culture” into an uncultured place. And why shouldn’t they? It’s a Biblical thing to do.

Abram and his entourage, his “wagon train,” are simply being obedient to the LORD. As we’ve seen already it was the LORD who actually brought Abram to this land. And the LORD always acts according to His own will. And when Abram “up and left” his home in Ur of the Chaldeans he was simply acting according to the will of God.

Galatians 3:8 states clearly that Abram had heard the Gospel. How else could he be saved? Therefore Abram was being obedient to the Gospel of God as it had been revealed at that time. (Yes, of course, we have to bear in mind that Abram didn’t have a copy of the New Testament with him) but as we follow Abram’s life you’ll begin to see Gospel patterns and images more and more.

You’ll begin to see how the beginning connects with the middle and the end. In other words, you’ll begin to see more of the magnitude of the Gospel of God. You’ll see that what God did through Christ at Calvary is still being worked out in the world today. As Paul says to the Romans, “We know that all things work together for good to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.

Abram has been called out of Ur of the Chaldeans according to the eternal purpose of God. And we see that God is doing a great deal of preliminary work in and through the life of Abram. Since Abraham has been given the title “father of believers” one would expect his children to follow in their father’s footsteps somewhat. So we should expect to see with Abram, albeit in embryonic form, something of what we as the Church, Abraham’s children are expected to do today. We have the same Master. We follow the same LORD who never changes. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever

In the following we meet Abram after his escapade in Egypt. He has returned to the LORD and to the Promised Land with great riches. And he is now, once again, seeking to be fully obedient to the Gospel.

Now, Abram and all his followers, whether wittingly or not, at this point in time, are simply being obedient to the “Cultural Mandate.” So, as they used to say in the old westerns from the 50s, “meanwhile back at the ranch.” We pick up the story of Abraham as he moves into the great frontier. We know that he’s already seen some of this frontier land. And you’ll remember that the LORD had sent a famine on this same land. And Abraham went down into Egypt to escape the drought. But now he is obedient once again to God and His Cultural Mandate, i.e., the Gospel.

So in the following we’re going to look at a couple of things in our text: Culture and Conflict. We’ll look at these in their Biblical and historical context, while at the same time we’ll apply what we learn to ourselves as the Church in the World today.

The general theme of the following is: Christianity is the highest form of culture, but Gospel obedience means conflict!

Culture

First thing we need to do is define what we mean by culture. The word “culture” has been misused and abused almost beyond recognition nowadays. I don’t mean to bore you with detail but this is important. My dictionary defines the word “culture” something like this:

1. The cultivation of plants or animals, esp. to IMPROVE the breed.

2. The development, and refinement of MIND, MORALS, or taste.

3. The condition thus produced; refinement.

4. A specific stage in the development of a civilization.

5. Cultivation of the soil.

Therefore, for something to be “cultured”, that something has to have been developed or refined somewhat. By definition, then, a thing has to be cultivated before it can be called “cultured.” For instance, if you were to come across a bunch of people somewhere who had next to no morals you’d say that they were “uncultured.” You would say that they were “uncivilized.” Therefore, it’s all to do with obedience to God.

Wherever there is obedience to God there, too, is “culture” or “civilization.” Therefore the “degree” of culture or civilization in any society is directly proportionate to the degree of obedience to God. The Ancient Greeks, for instance, had a great civilization or culture, but only in so far as it measured up to the Law of God, i.e. the 10 Commandments. And we know that all mankind has God’s Law written on their hearts, Romans 2:15. Adultery, in the forms of fornication and homosexuality were apparently rife in ancient Greece. Greece met its downfall, as did ancient Rome after it because of this uncivilized behaviour. It would seem that God puts up with this kind of thing only for so long!

We see our culture, Western Society and Civilization going the same way. The West was won by the Gospel, not the gun, though many of our forefathers were persecuted and even martyred for the Faith. However, Western Society is now becoming less and less civilized as the Gospel is more and more covered over by the settling dust of secular humanistic rhetoric!

There is a dust encrusted Bible in many-an Australian home but the less it is read and obeyed, the more these homes will produce uncivilized offspring! Abraham, himself tended toward uncivilized behaviour by going down into Egypt. And we saw before that Abram tempted Pharaoh also to behave in an uncivilized manner by saying that Sarah was only his sister and not his wife.

To be truly civilized is to have good morals both inwardly and outwardly. To be truly civilized is to show obedience to God, whether wittingly or unwittingly! But now Abram is once again being obedient to God’s Cultural Mandate. His house is multiplying with people. However none of them are from his own loins – yet.

You are familiar with the Cultural Mandate? Here’s a reminder. The Cultural mandate is of course recorded for us in Genesis 1:28, “Then God blessed them [i.e., mankind], and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, over every living thing that moves on the earth.” The command or mandate is given again to Noah and his family after the Flood as they stepped out of the ark. Genesis 9:1-3, “So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.”

So then, God commands us to multiply in numbers and fill the earth and subdue it to God’s glory. However, the tendency is for us to cluster in great cities and live on top of each other. The first great city like this in the Bible was Babel and you all know the story of the great Tower. God confused the languages then, and scattered mankind all over the earth. Therefore, we see that when man refuses to obey the Cultural Mandate God intervenes.

Directly connected to the Cultural Mandate is the “Great Commission” Where the Cultural Mandate is general the Great Commission is specific or particular. But in the Great Commission, as in the Cultural Mandate, people are to be obedient and are to go forth and multiply.

An almost entirely overlooked aspect of the Great Commission is the fact that the Church is to multiply her numbers through godly offspring! Few Christians, it would seem, see any connection between the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission. They forget that their children belong to the church every bit as much as they do! But as we obey the Cultural Mandate/Great Commission we are teach others to be obedient too We are to baptize and to teach our children to obey and we are to baptize and to teach the nations to obey.

The Church is to be a light on the hill, the salt of the earth. She is to set the good example, as we shall see in our father Abraham, and as we see most clearly in Jesus Christ. For Jesus says in Matthew 28:19ff., “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, TEACHING THEM TO OBEY ALL THINGS I HAVE COMMANDED YOU...” So we see that it’s the role of the Christian Church not only to be obedient to the LORD ourselves but also to teach the nations to likewise be obedient to Christ and His Gospel commandments.

And before we move into our second and final point let’s summarize: The Cultural Mandate is God’s command to all mankind to obediently go forth and multiply and subdue the earth to the glory of God. The Cultural Mandate is given generally to all mankind whereas the Great Commission is given specifically to the Church. When we look at Abram we see the beginning of the transition from the general to the specific or particular.

Abram’s offspring would become as numerous as the stars in heaven, the sand of the sea. In Abram God is beginning to form a new people who will one day be whole-heartedly obedient to His Cultural Mandate as expressed in the Great Commission. Culture, then, has everything to do with obedience to God – i.e., doing God’s will. Culture, then, has to do with morals – keeping God’s Moral Law, i.e., His Ten Commandments.

 

Conflict

If Christianity is the highest form of culture, then Gospel obedience will mean conflict! It stands to reason then that wherever Christians are obedient to the Gospel there will be conflict. As pictured in the 50s westerns, families who were united to other families with their domesticated livestock were moving into new frontiers. The wagon trains formed circles of defense against attacks from the natives on the land – conflict! Likewise the Church forms a line of gospel defense against pagan attack! When the civilized meet with the uncivilized, when culture meets non-culture, when the Church meets with the world she meets with conflict!

No doubt you’ve heard the expression, “Christian are to be in the world, but not of the world”? Well, we see clearly the Abram was in the world but not of the world. We’re told in genesis 13:7b that “The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land.” These were the epitome of depravity. They were uncultured, uncivilized. They were unchristian! However Abram was different. He was walking in the Spirit not the flesh. He was walking with the true God who had revealed Himself to Abram, the God who had given him revelation.

So Abram, as it were, has ordered his wagons to form a circle In Genesis 13:4b we read, “And there Abram called on the name of the LORD.” This, of course, doesn’t mean that he ran around calling out, “LORD! LORD!” Rather it means that he began to truly worship God in spirit and in truth. Jesus says, “Where two or three are gathered in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20. And since we are told in Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Then Christ was present with them by His Spirit in the Promised Land.

The pagans all around followed their perverted religions – “heathen-anity” or “pagananity.” In other words, non-Christians were in the land. But as King David wrote in the Shepherd’s Psalm, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” Heathenism and Paganism, i.e., false religion, the worshipers of false god’s are enemies of Christ. Abram, like the Church today, was in the presence of his enemies.

The natives were in direct violation of at least the first two commandments: 1. You shall have no other gods before Me. 2. You shall not make for yourself any carved image. The natives, the indigenous people, or if you will, the Indians who lived in Canaan followed a false religion and worshipped false gods. And as we shall see some other time, if you will, the Plains Indians, i.e., those Canaanites who lived on the plain of Jordan were the most uncivilized. For on the Plain of Jordan were the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. As it says in Genesis 13:13, “The men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” Notice that it says who they were exceeding wicked against – not Abram – not each other. They were exceedingly wicked AGAINST THE LORD.”

Now, here’s where there is the greatest amount of conflict between Christianity and the world. The world, as you know, refuses to submit to the Law or will of God. So when Christianity comes along and tells the world that it’s to repent, i.e., to stop breaking God’s Law and believe in the Gospel, there is immediate conflict. All that the world hears is what it calls a bunch of hypocrites telling the world to behave itself. However, the world and Christians themselves must learn that it’s not people who are telling the world to behave. It’s God!

It’s God who’s telling them to repent or they’ll end up destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah! And the type of behaviour that God is demanding is not an outward obedience to His Ten Commandments, but rather an inward obedience to His Gospel. God wants you to have a heart for Him and for His Law. And an inward obedience to His Gospel always expresses itself as an outward (albeit and imperfect) obedience to His Ten Commandments.

Abram, as we see, had the Gospel in his heart. He was obedient to God. With Abram came true religion, the true worship of God. As he called out to God he was bringing civilization into the uncivilized land of Canaan. He was bringing culture into the midst of the uncultured! There he was between Bethel and Ai, the church on the hill shining in the darkness. He was at the place where he had built an altar. He had erected a structure different to all the rest in that pagan land (we looked at that above). And so it is wherever Christians go, whether it be into the work place, or whether it be into darkest Africa or the Amazon Jungle, or whether it be into the place where the Indians of America lived, or the outback of this great land of Australia, wherever Christians go, they take with them true religion, i.e., culture, civilization, Christianity.

God wants the knowledge of Himself to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9). Habakkuk 2:14 says, “For the earth will be filled with knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” The Church then, is to hitch up the wagons and go West young man! She’s to keep on spreading! And as the Church tries to spread the knowledge of God she meets with conflict. Conflict with the pagan nations is guaranteed. Conflicting world-views will do that but, there will also be conflict among the members of the Church. We see this principle at work in our text: Genesis 13:7 “There was strife between the herdsmen of       Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.” Conflict among the people of God!

It’s the same old story, isn’t it? When your local Church gets too big it’s time to plant another! The LORD doesn’t want us to unite together and build another Tower of Babel! So, as my old boss used to say to us when he caught us all in a huddle talking: “Spread out in a bunch!” I think he meant that the whole bunch of us was to break up and go elsewhere else and do something. Well, that’s what the Great Commission is about, isn’t it?

Don’t take over a whole city-block and build a mega-church! Get going out there and Christianize the whole world by influencing it with the Gospel! Go West young man and seek other pastures! “The Lord’s my Shepherd I’ll not want, He makes me down to lie. In pastures green He leadeth me, the quiet waters by.”

I remember at college looking into the history of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland. I was hoping they weren’t going to ask me how many times the Church had split over the years. The list, it seemed, went on and on and on – split after split after split! No doubt many of these splits were anything but amicable! No doubt there was a great deal of conflict between Christians. And no doubt during these times of conflict much deadwood would have been removed from the Church. But, be that as it may, every church group worshipped the same LORD! They might have all had their differences, but they were all one and the same – Christians! Sure some were apostate. Some were Christian in name only. As Paul says to the Romans, “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel” Romans 9:6b. But the LORD would have us multiply throughout the whole earth. He would have us reproduce the way the cells of our body reproduce.

The cells spread by splitting and splitting but they are all part of the same body. We see the same principle at work when the LORD split Israel into twelve tribes. We see a principle for the need to divide in Genesis 13:6 “Now the land was not able to support them, that they may dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together.” So Abram decided that it would be better for him and Lot to separate. And in Genesis 139 Abram said to Lot, “Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me.” Did Abram not love Lot? Of course he did (as we’ll see in up ahead).

In Genesis 13:11, as in the old westerns, we see Lot ride off into the sunset. Actually he rode off into the sunrise, but you get the picture! Genesis 13:11, “Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other.” So then, as we begin to hitch up the wagons and get ready to ride off into the sunset ourselves, let me remind you of this: We, the Church, have moved into hostile territory. We are surrounded by painted savages on every side. It’s looking bad for us at the moment – conflict without and conflict within! Sex outside of marriage, violence, drugs are all promoted and glorified in the TV programs of today and is in turn applied (i.e., acted out) in society. The TV shows of the 50s which promoted family-life, integrity are mocked as unrealistic!

Well, what are we to do? - we’re living among an uncivilized people! Well, we obey the Gospel, don’t we? For as the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 4:17b asks the rhetorical question: “What will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”  The Church once again, needs to remind herself of the Cultural Mandate! She needs to once again look at the words of the Saviour! The words of Jesus in the Great Commission Matthew 28:18ff: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all things I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”

The Canaanites and the Perizzites might still be in the land. But we have a faithful Saviour, One who is still with us! We are more than conquerors! (We’ll see this principle at work in Abram up ahead!)

The message of the Gospel is a life-changing message! The Gospel not only prepares us for heaven. It also brings culture to non-culture! For Christianity is the highest form of culture, but Gospel obedience means conflict – even culture conflict!