Don’t Harden Your Heart!

-Heading Out On A Little Vacation-

-Next Post: August 25th-

-God’s Intentions Are Good!

God is benevolent toward us! That simply means that He is well-intended! His intentions toward us are good! It is in His very nature that He is loving, gracious, and merciful! His benevolence is not only intended toward us as individuals; but, also toward the nations of the world! However, while He is well-intended toward us— the people of the world— He holds the Sovereign right, as Creator, King & Lord over His creation, to withdraw His intended blessings from us as individuals; or, as a nation, when we fail to listen to His revealed Word!

-It’s His Sovereign Right To Judge!

He holds the Sovereign right to act toward us in the judgment that our actions deserve! And, listen, friend, you don’t wanna go there! God often warns us, in His Word, not to test Him! He often railed on Israel, His chosen people, for their constant testing of His resolve! He will judge! He will punish! It’s not what He wants to do; but, it is what He will do! Over the last several posts, we’ve considered the parable, in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, about the “potter and the clay.” In the parable, God is said to be the “potter”; while, we are His “clay.” We’ve discussed God’s Sovereign right to make of each individual lump of clay what He wills to create! We’ve also discussed how gracious God is to “remold” us after we’ve lived a life of rebellion that did not conform to His will! If we’ll confess our sinful & stubborn will, He will put us back on His spinning wheel and make of us a remolded piece of pottery!

-God’s Sovereign Right To Cast Us Aside!

In this post, we want to point out, from God’s parable in Jeremiah, that God also has the Sovereign right to cast us aside when we become hardened against Him:  “This is what the Lord says: ‘Go, buy a potter’s clay jar. Take some of the elders of the people and some of the leading priests and go out to the Valley of Hinnom near the entrance of the Potsherd Gate. Proclaim there the words I speak to you. Say: Hear the word of the Lord, kings of Judah, and residents of Jerusalem. This is what the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, says: I am going to bring such disaster on this place that everyone who hears about it will shudder because they have abandoned Me and made this a foreign place. They have burned incense in it to other gods… you are to shatter the jar in the presence of the people traveling with you, and you are to proclaim to them: This is what the Lord of Hosts says: I will shatter these people and this city, like one shatters a potter’s jar that can never again be mended” (Jeremiah 19:1-10). Those words are terrifying! It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God! Don’t mess with Him! Yes, He is loving, gracious & merciful! But He is equally just & righteous; and, He will punish those who harden their hearts against Him! If you harden your heart against God’s Word, He has the Sovereign right to cast you aside!

-Submit To The Designer’s Will!

We are a lump of clay in God’s hands! We are like clay, which has little value, until we are molded, by the Master Potter, into Jesus’ likeness! God has a design for you; and, in the eternal sense, it’s the same for each one of us! He intends to mold us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. “For we are His creation,” Paul wrote the Church of Ephesus, “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). There’s a story told that when Michelangelo was asked how he could fashion his masterpiece, of King David, he’s reported to have said:  “It wasn’t that difficult. I just chipped away every piece of the stone that didn’t look like David.” That’s what God, the Potter, is doing in your life. He’s forming you! He’s shaping you into the image of Jesus. Sometimes it hurts a little as He’s forming us; but, He always works on us because He loves us & His plans are best for us!

Lessons From The Potter!

A Parable From The Lord God!

In the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, God gives the prophet a parable to deliver to Israel’s leaders:  “This is the word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah from the Lord:  ‘Go down at once to the potter’s house; there I will reveal My words to you.’ So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, working away at the wheel. But the jar that he was making from the clay became flawed in the potter’s hand, so he made it into another jar, as it seemed right for him to do” (18:1-4). The concept that God wanted Israel, and us, to grasp— from this parable— is that He is the ultimate Sovereign over every life! That God has the absolute authority to do whatever He wills to do with His creation in the same way that a potter has absolute jurisdiction over the creation he fashions out of the clay!

-A Lump Of Wet Dirt!

Without the potter, the pottery fashioned is nothing more than a lump of wet dirt; and, that’s true of us as well as Israel. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God continues:  “The word of the Lord came to me:  ‘House of Israel, can I not treat you as this potter treats his clay?’—this is the Lord’s declaration. ‘Just like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, house of Israel’” (vs.5-6). When God is said to be the Potter, it means He has a definite plan for our lives in the same way that a potter has plans for his lump of clay; so, when we fight against God’s will, we’re foolishly hurting ourselves because His design for everything, including our lives, is flawless! We’re foolish to think that our plan, for our lives, is better than His.

-The Greatest Meaning In Life!

He knows ALL! He knows what is BEST! We will never find the greatest meaning, for our lives, by disobeying God! Only when we obey will we find the greatest satisfaction in life.  And, when we repent of our rebellion against His will, He promises to withhold His judgment. Israel had sinned! They had sinned severely! That’s why God had directed Jeremiah to write the words in his book! They had rebelled against God’s Sovereign plan for them; but, God makes it clear that because He is the Potter, He can withhold His right to judge Israel if they just repent and get back in alignment with His Sovereign plan for them:  “At one moment I might announce concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will uproot, tear down, and destroy it. However, if that nation I have made an announcement about turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the disaster I had planned to do to it” (vs.7-8).  He is a gracious and patient God! And, we are different from clay because we have a will! Though we may be resistant to God & unpliable, we have a will to repent & return to Him! If the nation God has pronounced judgment against repents; or, changes their mind about their sin; that, it’s not okay, then God will also change His mind & withhold punishment from them!

-He Makes Us Useable Again!

There’s another principle here; actually, back in v.4 again, that’s related to repentance:  “But the jar that he was making from the clay became flawed in the potter’s hand, so he made it into another jar, as it seemed right for him to do.”  The text doesn’t tell us how the clay became flawed; but, it was not beyond use! So, the potter remolded it and used it in another way. Clay can lose its plasticity and its strength! Plasticity means it’s flexible to the Potter’s hand to mold it the way he wants; but, it has to have the strength to hold itself in the way that the potter molds it. So, sometimes when it lacks plasticity & strength, the potter has to introduce other materials so it once again is flexible enough to hold and shape. That is such a beautiful picture of God’s great desire to use us, despite our flaws! Despite of our sins! Don’t ever think that you’re beyond repair or beyond God’s ability to use you! Repent! He will remold you!

Relationship Humility With God!

To Know Him Better!

So, God began to reveal Himself to us in the very beginning, Genesis chapter 1. And, as each page of Scripture is turned, we come to know Him better! It follows that we have to be in the Scriptures if we have any hope of really knowing Him & becoming intimate in a relationship with Him! As we come to the Old Testament of Isaiah, we learn that, for us to have a relationship with God, requires humility on our part! We have to humble ourselves before Him! We need to properly assess ourselves—He is God! I am not! You’re not!

We’re Not That Awesome!

Through the Prophet Isaiah, God tells us that:  “All humanity is grass, and all its goodness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flowers fade when the breath of the Lord blows on them; indeed, the people are grass. The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever” (40:6-8). Huh! That means we’re not as awesome as we think we are! God compares us to grass that withers & blows away! We can deceive ourselves with our sense of personal sovereignty; but, only God is ultimately Sovereign! Only God calls the shots!  “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,” Isaiah continues, “or who gave Him His counsel? Who did He consult with? Who gave Him understanding and taught Him the paths of justice? Who taught Him knowledge and showed Him the way of understanding?” (40:13-14). Those are all meant to be read as rhetorical questions. The answer, in other words, is obvious! No one has taught or given God anything!

No Counsel Needed!

God doesn’t need our counsel! Nor, does He need our permission to do anything! When we lift ourselves in pride we become as insignificant as dry grass to Almighty God! But, when we humble ourselves as Jesus did, we enter into a relationship with the Father. Jesus asked the Father to remove His death, on the cross, from His earthly path. But, He ultimately submitted to the Father’s will in humility! God also gave these words to Isaiah to record:  “I am Yahweh, who made everything; who stretched out the heavens by Myself; who alone spread out the earth; who destroys the omens of the false prophets and makes fools of diviners; who confounds the wise and makes their knowledge foolishness” (44:24-25). We need to humble ourselves before Almighty God! Don’t be so sure of yourself! Rather, be sure of Him; because a relationship with God requires His help. We can’t even relate to God without His help! Our sinfulness & depravity get in the way! We’re hopeless & helpless without Him! Be humble about that!  We can neither save ourselves; nor, can we keep ourselves saved! He is our help! He is our strength when we admit that we are powerless.

-The Everlasting God!

Inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, Isaiah also wrote:  “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint” (40:28-31) God never sleeps nor slumbers! He never takes a day off or goes on vacation! He’s always available to help! He is the Creator and the Sustainer of everything! Why do we insist on living for ourselves; and, trying to fix life’s problems all by ourselves? That’s faithless! God is big enough to carry our load; and, the other 7 billion people circling the sun with us! Throw your weight on Him! He is the everlasting God!

Experiencing True Happiness!

-Everyone Wants To Be Happy!

I’ve spent the last couple of posts breaking down Psalm, chapter 1. And, we’re not finished! There’s so much to glean from this text of Scripture.  The writer tells us that the more consistent we are in adhering to his counsel, the happier our lives will be! And, since everyone wants to be happy, everyone should follow his advice. Beginning with the 1st verse, he says that your happiness depends on where you get your advice:  “How HAPPY is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers.”

-Who’s Your Source For Advice?

I think it’s significant that he doesn’t say,  “Don’t be wicked; or, don’t sin; or, don’t mock!” It seems that the contrast, he wants to draw on, is our receiving advice from one source vs. our advice from a competing source. We are shaped by the advice we receive! So, take great care, he says, that you’re not getting advice from sinners! That word that’s translated “advice”— or, some of your versions translate it “counsel”— is referring to persuasive words or ideas that someone shares intending to get you to go in a specific direction that they recommend! The “advice” is meant to change your thinking in such a way that your behavior is altered; and, the very course of your life is modified!

-Taking The Path Of Sinners!

When you listen to the advice of wicked people, the Psalmist says, you take the path that sinners take & you become a mocker! There’s a progression here. Based on the advice you receive, your thinking affects your actions affects your character! So, turn your ears away from the advice of the wicked— whether that’s friends, people, books, music, TV, video games, websites, or social media platforms! Choose wisely who you listen to because your happiness depends on it! The writer is saying that your life will only be happy or blessed or fulfilled when you turn a deaf ear to the advice of the wicked!

-Who Are The Wicked?

And, who are the wicked? They are everyone on the path of sin, he says! Everyone who is disobedient to God’s Word & mock anyone desiring to obey God’s Word! Don’t be fooled by their deceitful, enticing words! Notice, in v.2, that the Psalmist says your happiness also depends on what you delight in:  “Instead, (or, in contrast to accepting bad advice from the wicked) his delight is in the Lord’s instruction.” Don’t let the wicked; or, the scoffer influence the way that you think; or, you’ll begin to “delight” in their ways! It starts by looking at & listening to all the stuff the world produces; until you think about it so much you begin delighting in it!

-Delight In God’s Instruction!

Beware, the text says; because you’ll find no happiness there! The genuinely happy person does NOT do something; DOES do something— the happy person does NOT take advice from the wicked; and, DOES delight, instead, in God’s instruction; or, the “Law of the Lord.” The Apostle Paul warned the Church of Rome:  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” Rom. 12:2.  That word “conformed” carries the idea of being pressed into a mold— ”Don’t let the world press you into its MOLD with all of its wicked advice & counsel.”  Instead, delight, Paul says, in God’s instruction so that your thinking is transformed! Test the advice you receive by comparing it against the grid of God’s Word!

Don’t Dismiss God’s Warnings!

God’s Not Trying To Kill Your Fun!

God’s warnings are never designed to kill your fun! But, rather, to offer you greater blessings & more fun! Pure fun without the shame and guilt that the “pleasures of sin for a season” may offer us! Don’t forget this truth:  “It is because God is love that He punishes us to bring us to brokenness so He can redeem us.” He warns us because He has compassion on us! Because He loves us! And, how does God respond to His people when they confess their sin & return to Him? He restores them, doesn’t He? That’s what He did with Adam & Eve; with, Abraham & the patriarchs; and, with Israel on multiple occasions!  He would bring revival to their souls & their lives were blessed!

-God’s Patience Can Be Exhausted!

But, when individuals & nations continue in their rebellion, there comes a time— and, only God knows that time; so, don’t sin presumptuously, calculating how far you can go in your sin before God has had enough— there comes a time when God’s patience is exhausted; that, in order to accomplish His purpose, in your life, that He punishes! This is place where Israel’s sin had brought them in 2 Chronicles, chapter 36, “But they kept ridiculing God’s messengers, despising His words, and scoffing at His prophets, until the Lord’s wrath was so stirred up against His people that there was no remedy” (v.16).  Those are haunting words— there was no remedy! All that was left was God’s wrath! Only punishment!

-God’s Strange Work!

It was the only thing left that God could do to turn Israel around! There’s an incredibly revealing verse of Scripture in Isaiah that’s often overlooked; but, I think the message is powerful! Isaiah— one of the very messengers that 2 Chronicles 36 referred to— says, “For the LORD will rise up as He did at Mount Perazim. He will rise in wrath, as at the Valley of Gibeon, to do His work, His strange work, and to perform His task, His disturbing task” Isaiah 28:21. Inspired by God’s Holy Spirit, Isaiah says that God’s judgment is His strange work! His disturbing task! God, Himself, finds His judgment & punishment of sinners to be disturbing because it’s not His will that any would perish!

-Why Continue In Your Sin?

When you sin against God & His Word & you ignore His warnings, He will punish you because He is Holy & Just! But, know, that it disturbs Him to punish you for the great love & compassion that He has for you! So, why would you continue to turn against Him & go your own way? Why do you spurn His love for you & choose all the cheap substitutes that sin offers you? None of those things will satisfy! None will bring you joy & fulfillment!

-Forgiveness For The Prodigal!

Why endure punishment when God willingly offers all prodigal sons forgiveness! When prodigal Israel repents of her sin & returns to the Lord, to accomplish God’s purposes, He redeems them! Let me tell you what it means that God redeems them! There are at least 3 words, in the original languages of Scripture, that are translated “redeem.” in the Bible! One means “to buy or purchase”; and, it’s used in the context of a slave who is bought to be owned as property! At the time that God redeemed Israel, they were enslaved to Egypt. Here’s the point— we are all enslaved to somebody! We are either enslaved to sin, which is a cruel & destructive task master! Or, we are enslaved to a God who loves us with great compassion & willingly meets every need we have according to His will! But, once you’ve been redeemed by God, He will begin a work in you that’s redemptive! He reforms you to make you willing to obey Him & love Him!

Seeing God At Work!

-We Minimize Sin’s Damage!

It seems like one of the most difficult things, for us to discern, is when and where God is at work in our lives!  In our own little world—that we’ve created in our own little minds—we tend to think of God’s work, in our lives, as little more than a “clean-up on aisle 7.”  No harm! No foul! Our sin is just a little “spill” that God cleans up for us! But, in fact, our brokenness & our sinful depravity runs so deep that God’s work, in us, requires major surgery; not, just a little “clean up.” We minimize the extent of the damage that sin has done to us!

-Missing God’s Construction Signs!

It’s part of our brokenness that we’re blinded, by our brokenness, so we can’t even see how badly broken we are! We exaggerate how good we are & how far we’ve come in our faith! So, it’s easy for us to miss the “construction signs” when God is at work in us! He uses your marriage to work on you! He can use your job! He can use medical issues & a lot of other things that we may not think about! That’s what this post is all about— seeing God at work in our lives! Not just in the big things or the obvious places; but, sometimes in the corners of our lives! Places where we wouldn’t necessarily think of Him as working!

-We Need Spiritual Eyes!

If we’re looking at life strictly through the eyes of our human flesh we won’t see everywhere that God is at work! We need spiritual eyes! We need the help of God’s Holy Spirit to remove the blinders from our eyes & unstop our ears to hear what He’s telling us.  Without His help, we cannot see the work that God is doing, in us, through the events in our lives! It may feel, at times, like He’s distant! Like He’s left you on your own to figure things out! But, He hasn’t & He never will! He’s using the difficulties and pressures you face to bring to the surface all the areas of your life that He’s working on in you!

-Signs God Is At Work!

And, I can tell you that He’s at work, in you, every time you’re angry or agitated or you have a heightened sense of frustration! So, take a deep breath! Bow your head & ask Him to show you what He’s doing; and, to support you even as He works! Don’t ever make the mistake of separating out the secular part of your life from the sacred! Let me tell you what I mean by that— don’t ever assume that there’s like “church” & that’s God’s part of your life; but, God’s not involved with the rest of your life! All the earth is Holy Ground! There is no secular! God rules over everything! He’s in all the details!

-God’s Providential Blessings!

And, that’s, in part, what God’s Holy Spirit intends to show us in many of the Old Testament stories! We don’t have all the doctrinal details laid out for us in the same way we do in the New Testament. God’s Spirit intends to help us wrestle with these stories & reveal the truth in a way that might not be obvious at our first reading of the passage. We see how God uses someone’s betrayal, against us, to return us to prayer! The pain of the betrayal, in your life, can be so painful that God may use it to get your attention & get you re-focused on spending time with Him! David experiences the betrayal of his own son, Absalom (2 Samuel 15). Absalom had the appearance of a movie star! In fact, the Scripture says he, “…had a handsome appearance from the soul of his foot to the crown of his head.” When Absalom betrayed David & forced him to run for his life, God used the experience to return David to his spiritual roots of prayer!

Leadership Development!

-Staying For The Long Term!

This past May marked 17 years of ministry at Morningside Bible Church for my wife and me.  I vividly remember that 1st weekend, of April 2003, when we came to candidate. After a potluck lunch, on Sunday, we gathered together in the gym for some Q & A time & someone asked me how long I could see myself staying here if the church called me to be their Teaching Pastor. I responded that whether it was me; or, some other guy, that the church really needed to call someone who would stay & oversee the ministry for the next 20-25 years.  I admitted that I couldn’t promise I’d be here for 20-25 years; but, that if I was called, I would come with that mindset & it would have to be an incredibly clear leading of the Lord to move us!

-Leadership Transition!

So, here we are 17 years later! I have more gray hear now; and, I think it’s wise to begin talking about a transfer of leadership; even, if it’s still 5-10 years away. We don’t want to be taken by surprise! It is something that we’ve talked about, from time to time, in our Elder meetings. Those were some of the thoughts that came to mind as I read about the successful transition of leadership, for the nation of Israel, from Moses to Joshua as told in the O.T. books of Deuteronomy & Joshua. So, let’s audit how one leader, Moses, birthed another leader, Joshua.

-Disciple A Leader!

In fact, I would suggest to you that a “leader” is what you’ll always get when you disciple someone effectively. You may make a disciple; but, a leader is the by-product. That’s what Jesus got! He took 11 men, &turned them into disciples who became leaders, of the early church, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit. And, it says they turned the world upside down after spending 3 1/2 years under Jesus leadership development; and, the church has thrived whenever it was actively making disciples & training up leaders.

-Long Term Success!

The story of Moses & Joshua is an O.T. example of that. The long term success of any institution is dependent on an effective transfer of leadership! While Moses officially passes the leadership baton to Joshua at the end of Deuteronomy, all the prep work was done during the 40-year interim between the Exodus, from Egypt; and, possessing the land.  It’s for that reason that we can say that Joshua’s story doesn’t really begin the book of Joshua, named after him. It’s where we 1st see him stepping into leadership; but, that ability was learned in the trenches from Moses.

-Investing In Leaders!

Before he could wear Moses’ shoes, Joshua had to live with Moses! He had to be at his side to observe the right way to lead & the wrong way to lead. And, Moses provided him with both good examples of leadership and bad! I can only assume, based on Moses’ humility & meekness, that he often debriefed with Joshua about leadership. You might recall that, early on, Moses began learning the nuances of mentoring, discipling & leadership development from his own father-in-law in Exodus 18. Jethro told him that he was wearing himself out trying to take on all the leadership responsibilities; and, he gave him a method for developing additional leaders; and, from that early lesson, it appears that Moses gained a passion for it. He personally selected & invested in leaders, none, more than Joshua! Next week we’ll spend the time to look specifically at several examples of the way Moses prepared Joshua to lead!

 

Don’t Be Deceived!

-How To Approach Your Faith!

To beware of something is to be wary; to be cautious; to be careful! It means you can’t assume anything! You take all the necessary precautions. And, that’s how Scripture tells us to approach our faith! Beware that you’re not deceived! Be aware of the genuineness of your faith. Be sure it’s not counterfeit.  “Test yourselves,” the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians,  “to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you yourselves not recognize that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test” 2 Cor. 13:5. Put your faith to the test, Paul says! Examine it! Compare it with Scripture! Does it match up? Is it authentic?

-The Holy Spirit’s Work In You!

The Apostle Paul also wrote the Church of Rome and told them, that, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” Romans 8:16. God’s Holy Spirit indwells every believer! I know when He’s there! You know it too! And, He Himself will convince you that you belong to God because you’ve denounced your own worthiness & you’re clinging to the righteousness of Christ to save you! Numbers 16 unpacks the story of Korah; how he incited rebellion against Moses because of his desire to hold a more prominent position of leadership in the Jewish nation. This raises a red flag in regard to the genuineness of his faith.

-Desiring To Lead!

A desire to lead is, in itself, not evil! It’s not necessarily evil to be a leader! In fact, one of the qualifications, of an Elder in the church, is that they hold a “desire” to actually be a leader. It’s really the rest of the Biblical qualifications that either confirm or deny that the person is fit to be a leader in the church.  What is the motive behind that desire to obtain a position of leadership? That was Korah’s issue!

-Rebellion Against Leadership!

The Scripture gives us a peek into his motives in the first 3 verses of Numbers 16:  “Now Korah son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took 250 prominent Israelite men who were leaders of the community and representatives in the assembly, and they rebelled against Moses. They came together against Moses and Aaron and told them, ‘You have gone too far! Everyone in the entire community is holy, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?’” Korah sought a higher level of leadership by rebelling against the legitimate leader; who was God’s choice to lead— Moses! His desire, for Moses’ position of leadership, was illegitimate! It was motivated by a lust for power & a desire to be recognized! His evil motive was exposed by his methods!

-Undermining Legitimate Leadership!

And, then it says he set off to undermine Moses by gathering 250 prominent men, who were also leaders in the camp. Rebels always seek to gather a crowd when they oppose leadership because that gives the appearance that they’re right & the legitimate leader is wrong! No doubt he did so by whispering, spreading rumors & back-biting the current leadership. But, the one true God is more than capable of righting the wrong; and, He will right all wrongs Romans 12:19 tells us! Moses doesn’t defend himself! He puts the situation in God’s court (vs.6,7); and, God judges Korah severely! The earth opens up and swallows up Korah and all 250 rebels with him! That’s intense! The application? It tells us to submit to God’s sovereign plan & to submit to those leaders He has placed in our lives!

 

Beware Of Yourself!

-Evil Appears As A Friend!

Philip Yancey is a popular Christian author who used “Chinese Opera”— in his book, A Skeptic’s Guide To Faith— to help illustrate a point.  “In Chinese opera,” Yancey points out, “Heroes wear a certain color of face paint with a few simple strokes, while villains wear a different palette in complex patterns. In real life,” he continues, “unlike Chinese opera, we cannot always tell the heroes & the villains by the color of paint on their faces. More often, evil appears as a friend with a smell like perfume.” In real life, he said, it’s not always easy to tell who the hero is and who the villain is.

-Heroes & Villains!

When we read through the book of Numbers, in the Old Testament, we’re introduced to Korah, who rebelled against Moses until God opened up the earth and it swallowed up he & his followers! We also read how Moses struck the rock, to produce water in the desert when God had commanded him to speak to the rock; and, how Israel failed to fully trust that God would go before them, into a battle & the consequences of their disobedience. We also read about the Prophet Balaam’s talking donkey; or, more accurately how God used Balaam’s donkey to speak to him because he wasn’t listening to God. In each of these instances, there was a hero & a villain; and, the text of Scripture is pretty forthright about who was who!

-Blindly Believing We’re Right!

Today, I’d like to encourage you to look at each one of these stories through a little different lens. I want you to look at them through the eyes of the villain! Here’s why! Because each of us has more in common with the antagonist, in the story, than we really want to admit. I don’t believe that any of them started out being the scoundrel! But, they deceived themselves! And, just like each of them, we have the ability to deceive ourselves! We can blindly believe that we’re in the right; and, everyone else, in our story, is in the wrong!

-Worthless Religion!

Let me tell you why self-deception is such a critical subject for us to talk about— because God has included multiple Scriptures to warn us about deceiving ourselves! In other words, it’s something we sinful humans are prone to do! We are prone to deceive ourselves about a lot of things; but, we’re especially inclined to deceive ourselves spiritually! In Luke 6:46, Jesus asked those, who were listening to Him, “Why do you call Me, Lord, Lord, and do not do what I tell you?” And, James 1:26 says, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” In other words, you can deceive your heart about your faith!

-Not Everyone Who Calls Him Lord!

Jesus also said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me” Matthew 7:21-23. Let me paraphrase Jesus’ words— the person you are most easily deceived by is yourself! Beware of yourself! That’s what Jesus is really saying there, isn’t it? Self-deception is so serious that you can think you’re a believer & a follower, of Jesus when you aren’t; and, by the very definition of “self-deception,” you wouldn’t know it because you’ve deceived yourself into thinking you’re saved! But, the truth will one day be revealed!

Stop Your Whining!

-Complaining Spreads Like Cancer!

If you’ve ever been part of a team, you know how deadly whining & complaining can be to team morale. Complaining spreads like cancer in an athletic locker room & it creates a losing culture! Whining has the power to kill an entire company! It’s devastating! Personally, I do everything I can to avoid too much contact with whiners & complainers because I don’t want to catch what they’ve got!

-You Can Catch A Bad Attitude!

I remember playing sports with guys who complained about practice or whined about the coach, “This stinks, man! Playing basketball is the dumbest decision I ever made.” In my mind, I’m thinking, “Adios amigo! I need to get away from you! Because, If I keep listening to you, you might persuade me to start agreeing with you; and, I’ll end up with a sucky attitude just like you.” The Old Testament book of Numbers reveals how a complaining attitude dispersed throughout the Israelite camp like a disease. Too many people listened to the whiners & just listening weakened their ability to resist; and, they slowly became whiners also! And, God became angry with them. And, for good reason!

-Blind To God’s Goodness!

He had delivered them from their slavery and bondage to Egypt! He had agreed to dwell with them & lead them on their journey! He protected them when Pharaoh pursued them with his army! He stopped up the Red Sea so they could cross over safely! He fed them manna & they complained about that! In a desert, with no water, He provided water for them from a rock! Their complaints had blinded them to God’s generous love for them. Complaining poisons the heart with a spirit of ingratitude & it acts like a plague! We read how it spread among the Israelites & that should be a lesson to us because it can happen in a local church community too!

-God Knows Best!

We tend to complain whenever someone— usually in a position of leadership— makes a decision or sets a policy that we don’t like or we disagree with! And, we think we know better! Like Israel, we tend to think our way is the right way! Listen! God wants us to believe that HE KNOWS what He’s talking about! That HE KNOWS what’s best for us! Always! What God tells us is always true! It’s always for our good! And, He wants us to trust Him, regardless of what our friends & others around us are whining about! This is a big problem for us! Our greatest struggle in life is to trust God instead of our own reasoning! That struggle started in the Garden of Eden with Adam & Eve’s failure to follow God’s instruction! Things haven’t improved since, either!

-A Renewing Of The Mind!

As followers of Christ, our only hope, for overcoming this way of thinking, is a transformation by God’s indwelling Spirit! “Therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” Romans 12:1-2.  Listen, if you tend to be a whiner or a complainer; or, think your way is always best, the book of Proverbs contains a verse you need to memorize: “There is a way which SEEMS right to a man, and its end is the way of death” Prov 14:12. If your way is contrary to the teaching, in God’s Word, it will always end badly for you! If you’re one of God’s children, He will spank you for it!