Over the last decade or so there seems to have been an explosion of talk about the liberal agenda in this country. In particular, the discussion ultimately revolves around where God fits in to the grand scheme of things. Does God belong in the classroom? Is it constitutional to have prayer in schools? Do women have more rights than their unborn child? God and His word appear to be under constant attack!
As frustrating as the current moral climate is we would be well served to realize that God has been under assault since the beginning of Creation! When we open our Bibles to Genesis 3 we see the account of man’s first encounter with Satan. In verse 1, Satan asks a question of Eve. “Has God indeed said ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” The first thing out of the Devil’s mouth is an accusation against God. It’s as though he was saying, “Is it true that God won’t let you have any of this good stuff in the garden”? Of course the answer was the exact opposite as Eve explained to Satan. “The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden, God has said you shall not eat it nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” The Devil then responds by lying to Eve, “You will not surely die.”
When we take a closer look at this conversation, we need to see what it is that our enemy is doing. In his first words to Eve, he is accusing God of creating all these wonderful things and then forbidding mankind to partake of them. He is assaulting the goodness of God! Satan then proceeds to lie to Eve about the consequences of partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He is assaulting the holiness of God. In both of these instances the character of God is being called into question! Let’s break these two points down individually for a few moments.
The Goodness Of God. The Devil knows that God is perfectly good. He also knows that man is learning about God each and every day. By calling into question God’s goodness, Satan tempts us to believe something different from what the Lord has revealed about Himself (Psalm 34:8). When things are going well and we “feel” blessed, we probably don’t need to be convinced of God’s goodness. When things aren’t going so well, however, we are likely to be more vulnerable to the proposition that God isn’t always good.
This author struggles at times to remember that God’s goodness is not predicated on what happens or by mood. The Lord has demonstrated to all humanity through the gift of His Son that He is perfectly good! Yet, instead of focusing on the incalculable number of blessings God has showered on us, we sometimes let Satan convince us that what God has withheld is actually good for us.
Nothing could be further from the truth!
The Holiness Of God. The Devil knows that God is perfectly holy! Any and all sin is a violation of the holiness of God and must be punished. Therefore, Satan works very hard to deceive us into believing that our sins won’t require justice. “God might be upset with you for doing what He told you not to, but He won’t actually kill you for it.”
This is the lie that he told Eve. This is the lie that cost man his perfect fellowship with God. If we aren’t careful, this is the lie that will cost us eternity with God. As Christians, we know better than this. We know the Bible tells us that, “The wages of sin is death …” (Romans 6:23). We have seen God carry out His threats against people, nations, and even the entire earth in Noah’s flood! It isn’t a question of whether or not God is holy; it is a question of whether or not we will remember this when tempted by our enemy to believe otherwise!
Satan still comes at us the same way he did in the Garden of Eden. May the Lord help us to resist the temptation to forget His perfect goodness and unfathomable holiness!
What is the purpose of the Lord's church? Is it to eradicate poverty, disease, social injustice, illiteracy from among men? Is it to bring about a cessation of war and conflict? Is it to campaign for a temptation-free society for Christians to live in?
If the church had as one of its great goals the eradication of disease, the Lord could have easily equipped it to accomplish that goal. Could not the same power that enabled one blind man to see have enabled all blind men to see; that enabled one lame man to walk have enabled all lame people to walk; that cured many people of varied diseases have cured all people of all diseases? And could not this same power have been given to the church in all generations?
If the church has as one of its great goals the eradication of poverty, the Lord could have easily equipped it to accomplish this purpose. After all, He fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes. He similarly fed four thousand on another occasion. Could not He who did these marvelous works have enabled His church in all generations to feed, clothe, and shelter the impoverished masses of the world through miraculous powers?
If the Lord had wanted His church to become a lobbyist group to apply political pressure toward a temptation and persecution-free society in which to live, He would have given instructions in that direction. He did not even lead His church into a direct effort to destroy slavery, but taught the Christian slave to be a better slave and the Christian master to treat his slaves as he would have his heavenly Master treat him (Col. 3:22-4:1).
The church's purpose is to save souls and prepare people for eternity. It holds out to the impoverished the hope of someday walking a street of gold; to the suffering a time when there will be no pain; to the sorrowing a moment when "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." It tells the tempted and persecuted that there is value in these afflictions, that the testing of their faith is "more precious than of gold," and to rejoice. It tells all to live godly lives in whatever environment they find themselves. It seeks to change people through the power of the gospel, not society through the coercion of legislators. Its weapons "are not carnal, but are mighty through God." Its motivating theme: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
When local churches become involved in hospital and health clinic work, or when they build schools for the education of their children, or when they see as one of their great missions to provide for the world's poverty, or when they feel obligated to create social upheaval and campaign for human rights, or when they feel called upon to express their views on the government's use of nuclear armaments or whatever, they have a distorted view of the purpose of the church.
The Protection of Guardrails Don Truex
With all of our young people returning to school in recent weeks, I thought it a good time to revisit the lesson with the above title from our Guardrails on the Road of Life series from last year. From the youngest elementary student to the college senior, who you choose as your close and intimate friends will profoundly impact your life.
Paul told the truth when he said, "None of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself" (Romans 14:7). We need friends — good friends — to provide a voice of reason and influence of strength. That is why "two are better than one … If they fall, one will lift up his companion" (Ecclesiastes 4). Our key verse is Proverbs 13:20. It contains a promise, "Walk with the
wise and become wise." And it contains a warning, "A companion of fools suffers harm." Notice carefully — the warning is not, "A companion of fools will become a fool," but "a companion of fools will suffer harm." So for all of us, young and old alike, I want to remind us of the guardrails in friendships that should warn of impending harm.
You hit a guardrail when you realize that your friend's core values are radically different than your own. When it dawns on you that your value system, what you want for your marriage, your finances, your spirituality is different than the direction your friends are traveling — that is a warning sign not to be ignored.
You hit a guardrail when you find yourself trying to defend the wrong behavior of your friends. If you find yourself telling others, "You just don't know them like I do" or "You just don't understand them" — that is a warning not to be ignored.
You hit a guardrail when you feel pressure to compromise. When you feel pressure to accept as right what you have always known to be wrong, to behave in ways you have always considered to be off limits — that is a warning not to be ignored.
You hit a guardrail when you find yourself pretending to be someone other than who you know you are. If your parents or friends are saying to you, "When you are with them you are a different person" — that is a warning not to be ignored.
You hit a guardrail when you hope the people you love and care about the most don't find out where you've been or who you have been with. If you are already formulating a defense of the person or place or situation in case someone does find out, someone does know — that is a warning not to be ignored. A little self-honesty about these matters would go a long way in keeping us from "suffering harm" through this school year and the years to come.