"All material is written by
Joe R. Price, unless otherwise
Times of services:
"And take...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17)
In this issue:
A recent Associated Press news story told of a “Christian youth group” in Georgia (“Single Focus Atlanta”) that regularly meets at the local Hooters restaurant for Bible studies. The rationale for having such meetings at Hooters was given: “We’ve seen a few of the waitresses become Christians. One of the former managers here became a Christian. So it’s worked. The whole object, in reality, is that this is just to get inside the door,” said (Rick) Lamborn (director of Single Focus Atlanta). The Rev. Dennis Rogers, a Southern Baptist and member of Single Focus’ board of directors said, “It’s something Jesus would’ve done because he looked past what people may think and looked at what people’s needs are.” (“Spreading the Gospel at Hooters,” by Louise Chu, AP, Skagit Valley Herald, C1, 14Aug04).
The Baptist doctrine on how to become a Christian left these souls lost in their sins, since it says one is saved by faith before and without obeying the Lord in baptism (Mk. 16:15-16; Heb. 5:9).
There is no doubt that Jesus looked at what people’s needs are. But, we question whether that is really what is going on at these Hooters Bible studies. The reported topic of study on the night the reporter visited was “consistent relationships”: “How does inconsistency negatively affect your relationships with others?” asked Lamborn of those in attendance. That really gets to people’s real needs, now doesn’t it? Is this what Jesus would have done? No.
Of course, the “casual, nonjudgmental atmosphere at the meetings” appeals to most. After all, isn’t that what folks want to believe about Jesus: that He never judged anyone? But the truth is that Jesus identified sin and called on sinners to repent (Mk. 1:15; Lk. 13:1-5). When He met with sinners it was to teach them how to be saved from their sins (Lk. 15:1-7). He told the adulteress to “go and sin no more” (Jno. 8:11). He told the rich young man to overcome his sin of covetousness, but was refused (Mk. 10:20-22). He told the woman at the well the man she was living with was not her husband (Jno. 4:18).
How about a Bible class at Hooters on the dangers of worldliness (Jas. 4:4; 1 Jno. 2:15-17)? How about a lesson on the sin of immodest dress (1 Tim. 2:9-10)? How about a lesson on the sin of alcoholic consumption (1 Pet. 4:3; Prov. 20:1)? How about lessons on sin, repentance, salvation and holy living (Acts 2:38-41; 26:18-20; 2 Cor. 6:17-7:1)? Will the patrons of Hooters be as ready to listen to some gospel teaching? We hope so. They haven’t heard it there yet.
Israel had many enemies during their occupation of the land of promise. One particularly troublesome enemy of the people of God was Moab. Early in the history of Israel the Moabites tried to obstruct the progress of God’s people (Num. 22-24). King Balak tried to enlist Balaam’s support against Israel, but the Spirit of God used Balaam to bless Israel while speaking prophetic judgments against Moab (Num. 24:17).
Throughout the history of Israel God’s prophets continued to make it clear that God would bring His judgment upon the sins of Moab. Amos (2:1-3), Isaiah (15; 16:6-14), Zephaniah (2:8-10) and Ezekiel (25:8-11) all had something to say about Moab’s sin and God’s vengeance against it. The most extensive statement of God’s judgment against Moab is found in the 48th chapter of Jeremiah. At first glance, God’s judgment against Moab may seem far removed from us. But, God’s word against Moab contains valuable lessons for us today (Rom. 15:4).
Moab had a fundamental problem that revealed itself in specific ways. The basic problem was that “he exalted himself against the Lord” (Jer. 48:26). To exalt (magnify, ASV) means to grow, enlarge or make great. Moab, being situated in a strategically secure region, was taken with itself and refused to respect God. Through His prophet Jeremiah God assured that “Moab shall be destroyed as a people, because he exalted himself against the Lord” (Jer. 48:42). How pathetic is the person (or nation) who exalts himself before Almighty God. Such a prideful attitude of disregard and contempt for God inevitably leads to more sin. Moab no longer exists. God’s judgment against Moab has been accomplished. Let us now consider Moab’s sins so that we can examine ourselves and avoid similar condemnation (2 Cor. 13:5).
Moab’s trust in his riches reflected the exalted view he had of himself: “For because you have trusted in your works and your treasures, you also shall be taken” (Jer. 48:7). The love of money continues to be the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Money is a method of exchange that enables the trade of goods and services, thereby sustaining and enhancing life. Money, in and of itself, is not evil. Being poor does not make one righteous any more than being wealthy makes one a sinner. It is one’s attitude of heart toward money that causes the unrighteous use and sinful preeminence of wealth in the lives of people. Moab’s treasures would be plundered and her cities destroyed; a judgment from God that serves as a historical reminder to be rich toward God (Jer. 48:7-8; Matt. 6:19-21; 1 Tim. 6:17-19).
Moab was also guilty of complacency and indifference: “Moab has been at east from his youth…” (Jer. 48:11-12). Moab’s relative geographic isolation had shielded it from the full destructive force of invading armies. The nation had lived in ease and was now “settled on his dregs” (Jer. 48:11). Moab’s ease led to pride and indifference. Zephaniah rendered a similar judgment against the men of Jerusalem (Zeph. 1:12). Similarly, the advantages of our country tend to cause a complacent pride within us. We seem so secure from outside oppression. Our ease of life is renown throughout the world. But have we allowed the way we view our blessings to become the eventual cause of our condemnation? For instance, September 11th should have served as a “wake up” call for Americans to turn back to God. Furthermore, if Christians are “at ease in Zion” then we (like Moab) will fall under God’s wrath (Amos 6:1-6). We must be vigilant, never sleeping, always abounding in the work of the Lord (Rom. 12:11; 1 Ths. 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 15:58).
Although Moab trusted in the might of his army, God’s destroyer would reduce him to calamity: “How can you say, ‘We are mighty and strong men for the war’? Moab is plundered and gone up from her cities…the calamity of Moab is near at hand, and his affliction comes quickly…” (Jer. 48:14-18). Moab’s trust was misplaced. Moab depended on the strength and power of men instead of honoring God. We can become far too trusting in our own power and ability. Genuine faith in God renders trust in men useless. Faith looks to God for strength, for security, for sustenance. Isaiah rebuked the faithless of Israel when he said, “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!” (Isa. 31:1) We must place our trust in the promises, power and presence of God to save us and secure our souls (Heb. 13:5-6; 6:13-20; Rom. 8:37).
Moab’s pride caused him to mock the people of God: “For was not Israel a derision to you?...For whenever you speak of him, you shake your head in scorn…” (Jer. 48:26-31) Zephaniah equated Moab’s pride with making threats against the people of God (Zeph. 2:10). Whenever we speak against God’s people we align ourselves against God Himself (cf. 1 Jno. 4:20). Imagine that: sinful man arrogantly elevating himself above the Holy God. But that is exactly what pride does. More that lifting one up above his fellow man, it exalts man above God. We must cast away every trace of pride toward man and God, or we too will fall under the wrath of God (Jas. 4:6-7; 1 Pet. 5:5-6).
Moab’s idolatry was another way he exalted himself against the Lord: “Moreover,” says the LORD, “I will cause to cease in Moab the one who offers sacrifices in the high places and burns incense to his gods” (Jer. 48:35). The worship of made-made gods has always been deplorable to the only true God. Idolatry has not gone out of fashion since the days of Moab. If we elevate anything to a degree of honor in our lives higher than God, we become idolaters (Col. 3:5). If God does not have first place in our life, then we are also idolaters.
God extended mercy to Moab in the coming Christ: “Yet I will bring back the captives of Moab in the latter days,” says the Lord (Jer. 48:47; cf. Isa. 11:11-16). We are eternally thankful that God is merciful toward us in Christ, saving us “by grace…through faith” (Eph. 2:4-9). Salvation by grace through faith leaves no room for boasting (exalting) before God (Eph. 2:9; cf. Rom. 3:19-20; 4:1-5).
Sin enlarges man against God. Yet, God offers mercy to every sinner in His Son, Jesus Christ (Isa. 59:1-2; Col. 1:21; Rom. 5:8-10. God will judge our sins (Rom. 2:1-11; 6:23). May we learn from Moab and repent.
The Olympic Games being held in Athens, Greece, remind us once again of the discipline, training and commitment required to win the prize. Like the successful athlete, Christians must always:
1. Exercise self-control: “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1 Cor. 9:25). Reckless abandon not only costs the athlete the prize, it costs one his soul. So, discipline yourself to conform to the image of the Son of God in all things (1 Cor. 9:27; Rom. 8:29; Gal. 2:20).
2. Follow the rules: “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim. 2:5). The body of law (“rules”) we must follow in order to be crowned is the gospel of Christ, also called the “pattern of sound words…the word of God…word of truth…Scripture…the word…sound doctrine...the truth” (2 Tim. 1:13; 2:9; 2:15; 3:15; 4:2-4). In the Olympics, not competing by the rules results in disqualification. By carefully following the “good doctrine” of Christ, we will be crowned with the eternal reward (1 Tim. 4:6; Matt. 7:21-23; 2 Tim. 4:7-8).
3. Endure to the finish line: “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). Physical conditioning is crucial to an athlete’s success. Spiritual conditioning is crucial to entering heaven. We must constantly exercise ourselves toward godliness (1 Tim. 4:7-8).
Created by Chuck Sibbing -
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA