Saturday, May 30, 2009

Is Chocolate a Sin? Part Three

The Flesh
The next hindrance is the flesh. This rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to be saved. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. The young man answered, “This I have done, from my youth.” Jesus’ answer here has also perplexed scholars for we all know that man is not saved by keeping the commandments. But what Jesus is doing here is not so hard to understand.

Do you remember in the book of Genesis, after man had sinned he went and hid, thinking that he could hide from God. When God came to them he asked a strange question. “Adam, where are you?” Why would God ask such a question. God knew where Adam was, there is no place we can go and be away from the presence of God. God knew exactly where Adam was, not just his location but the workings of his mind and the thinking process that drove Adam to think he could hide. God was really asking Adam “What do you think you are doing? Who do you think I am? What has happened to your love for me and your dependence on me?”

Jesus knows where this rich young man is at. He knows exactly what is going on in this man’s life and in his mind and he will bring this man right to the core of his problem in a very few words. Jesus even lists some of the commandments, all commandments from what’s called the ‘second table’, those that have to do with how we treat others.

This is a very decent young man, he really has been trying hard. Everyone knows him to be morally good and if you don’t believe it, just ask HIM. He’ll tell you. But Jesus can clearly see in this man’s heart that he has avoided the first table, the commandments regarding how we treat God. “You shall the love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength.”

“One thing you still lack, go and sell all that you have, distribute your money to the poor and come and follow me.” Ouch, nobody knew that he loved possessions more than God - but Jesus knew it. I don’t even think the young man knew that he didn’t love the Father more than his goods but Jesus just demonstrated it to him. Don’t think you can hide from God.

This man’s heart deceived him. The heart is deceitfully wicked above all things. If this young man hadn’t struggled with the flesh before, he was about to start. The flesh is our fallen sinful nature. The believer has two natures, a sinful nature and a new nature empowered by the Spirit of God. It is part of our transforming process to struggle against that old nature and subdue it. We will not escape the struggle until we stand before our Lord’s throne. This is God’s plan, but as believers we need not be ruled by sin. It need not control us.

Examine yourselves and see if you are being controlled by sin. The truth is we want to be free from the consequences of sin but we don’t want to stop loving our sin. Repent of your sins and turn to Christ.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is Chocolate a Sin? Part Two

The World
Let’s see how the world has affected this wealthy young fellow. First off, we know that he is wealthy and wealth was and still is considered by many to be evidence of God’s approval. This young man was accustomed to be treated as one who has been abundantly blessed by God, he has made it in this life and is a shoo in for the life to come.

He is greatly respected. Luke tells us he was a ruler. Now that term could mean he was a member of the Sanhedrin or a civic leader but it most likely means he was a member of the upper class. He would be treated accordingly. In the musical, Fiddler On A Roof, Reb Tevye explains this treatment perfectly in the song “If I Were A Rich Man”.

The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like a Solomon the Wise.
“If you please, Reb Tevye...”
“Pardon me, Reb Tevye...”
Posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!
And it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong.
When you’re rich, they think you really know!

This young man had the respect and honor and the approval of the world. He knew well how the system of the world worked. He loved the world and the world loved him. He ran up to Jesus and Luke tells us he got down on his knees and he said ‘good teacher’.

“Good teacher” was not a common greeting to a rabbi. This young man was going over the top in addressing Jesus. He was trying to flatter Jesus. He knew how it worked. People flattered this young man all the time. Jesus was drawing a crowd and this young man new the economy of popularity. “Good teacher!”

“Why do you call me good? Only God is good” This response has bewildered bible scholars for centuries because as a matter of fact the bible does speak of good men. So I believe the best explanation for our Lord’s response was to knock down the obvious empty flattery of this fellow. Jesus is letting him know that he does not march to the drummings of this fallen, pride-filled world.

There was another young man watching this scene play out who had given up everything for Jesus. He watched this rich young man, who the world had made great, putting on airs before the Christ and many years later the apostle John would write-

Do not love the world or the things in the world. “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions - is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

At the time this was happening however, John’s response was bewilderment thinking ‘if it’s difficult for the wealthy to be saved then who can be saved.”

Now remember, when we speak of the ‘world’ we are speaking of that whole value-system which dominates society and it is contrary to the ways of God. The world puts very different price tags on things and thoughts than God’s Word does. Popularity, wealth, selfish ambition - these are the values of the world. If you want it, take it. If it feels good, do it. I’ve gotta be me. I don’t need to parade out examples of worldliness. We have TV and billboards that do that. Some of us will react in sadness and resoluteness against such worldliness but most of us won’t even notice, because we have been desensitized by the constant glut to our senses. Examine yourselves to see if you have been polluted by the world’s value system and repent of your love for this world.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Is Chocolate a Sin? Part One

The door to the local Christian bookstore was pushed open with such violence and drama that some of the books near the door tumbled to the floor. The creases in her forehead, the frightened rabbit look in her eyes telegraphed a message that this lady was in some trouble. She moved straight-way to the counter taking long strides and shallow breaths. The clerk behind the counter was trying to get a read of what was going on in life of this tormented soul. Had she suffered a the loss of a loved one or a house to fire? Had she received horrifying news from her doctor? Had she been in an accident? The expression on this poor woman’s face seemed to indicate that all these things had happened... and more. Perhaps she was a modern female version of poor Job. The clerk remained calm but took a quick glance at the phone and mentally practiced dialing to 9-1-1.

“May I help you find something?” asked the clerk. The lady spoke with the same breathless urgency with which she had pushed open the door.
“Yes, I hope so. You’ve got to help me. You’ve go to get me something... a book, yes, a book or a tape to get me through this.
“Get you through what ma’am?”
“Get me through the next forty days! Today is the first day of lent and I’ve given up chocolate and I’m going crazy.!”

Now this is a slight embellishment of a true story and when I heard it I laughed to think that someone could get so worked up over chocolate.

Let me set your minds at ease, chocolate is not a sin. Not usually anyway. If you were to put chocolate before your love for God then yes it would be a sin as would be anything we put before God. But in this little story it was not the giving up of chocolate that was difficult, it is change. Change is difficult.

The word the Bible uses for change is ‘repentance’. Repentance means ‘a turning from sin and self’. Repentance is the negative side of conversion. In conversion we turn in faith TO Christ but we cannot turn TO Christ unless we also turn AWAY FROM sin and self. This happens the first time when God regenerates us but for the believer, it must continue happening as we are sanctified, changed or transformed into the image of Christ. Repentance carries the action of ‘turning around and going the other way’.

This article attempts to address the things that hinder us from turning around, from changing.

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Matthew 19:16-22

This is a familiar story, it’s a sad story and it’s a puzzling story.

The Bible summarizes our hindrances to repentance into three categories and we see all three of these categories coming into play in this short story of the rich young man. Our three enemies to repentance are - the world, the flesh and the devil.