Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Faith, Hope & Love P49 (08-10-20)
If we do not love then we are a noisy, clanging gang. You can do all kinds of activity, good things even, persevering in the faith, calling out false apostles, proclaiming truth, but if you have not love, then that accomplishes nothing. Let us ponder over those passages in 1 Corinthians 13, Revelation 2 and the story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10.
Sometimes we have a speck in our own eye and we just do not see ourselves as God sees what is going on inside us. That is why God disciplines those he loves. That is why in Revelation, we read about God’s correction and rebuke of those leaders of those churches. He wants us to bear fruit, and that only comes by remaining attached to the vine, receiving instruction from the head, who is Christ Jesus.
Man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart. What are our motives for doing the things we do, the church activities, the preaching to crowds, and being about nickels and noses rather than teaching truth, or getting people involved in programs and activities, to bring in the crowds. What really is your motivation? Did God initiate you to do that, or did you decide to do those things without giving a thought about what God would have you do or say? Is it just religious activity or is it from an abiding, deep relationship with God, which expresses itself in love toward others by the same love you received from Him?
If you were actively busy doing things for the Lord, going to Wednesday night bible studies, church visitation, Sunday evening prayer service, can you be busy and barren, having lost sight of your first love? Consider the choice of Martha and that of Martha? What Martha said revealed to her how she lost focus on what was most important. She had the audacity to say to Jesus, “Do you care?” She told Jesus to call Mary to come help her. She was busy cleaning up, and doing dishes and that sort of thing, but misses out on sitting with Jesus and learning about Him, about His unconditional love for her. That is what Mary chose, and Jesus told her she chose what was better. There is a time to learn and there is a time to be doing. But if you never take the time to know Christ, then what really is being accomplished through what you are doing? Being bothered and worried about so many temporal things is what Martha experienced.
To drive this point home, Bob used the illustration of a medical student. While he is studying and until he graduates, can he administer medicine or perform surgery? For eight long years, he is sitting under other medical doctors in the field and course work, numerous observations of other doctors, before he ever can start doing the work of a doctor. That is the same way as a Christian. The bible even instructs not to put a recent convert in a position of authority. This is his time to sit at the feet of Jesus, to learn who He is, what His new identity in Christ is, and develop this understanding of God’s love for him, before he can really learn what it means to walk in faith. He is learning to walk, and will stumble from time to time along the way. He needs nurturing and encouragement and time to be with the Lord, and does not need to be pushed into activity that crowds out that necessary time for proper spiritual growth.
And, as we grow in Christ, we too can get caught up in activity, and spend so much time doing so-called ministry, that we are not even spending time with the Lord. The only way you can get to know God is by sitting at His feet, listening to Him, through the scriptures He has given us. This is not like a math book, where you memorize a bunch of stuff and do it to get a grade. No, you read the scriptures to get to know the divine author, who is God.
Now this flesh of ours can deceive us. We draw conclusions about people, even in marriage or in various ways in our lives. In marriage, you think your wife is just a critical person. You perceived her to be that way, and so every time she mentions something for your good, you respond defensively, instead of humbly. Why? You respond in accordance with what you perceive the person to be. Bob elaborates more on this in the audio into how marital conflicts and even abuse can begin in a home.
The same thing with a person who calls himself a Baptist. You have preconceived ideas of how Baptists act or think. You can say, “Oh, he is one of those types.” So we draw conclusions about people, putting them into categories, or boxes, so then we can decide whether we want to get into that box or not. We are now deciding not to listen to the Spirit of God, to interact with someone. You have already decided not to interact with that person.
You have to deal with facts, not perceptions. You learn to ask good questions to draw people out, giving them an opportunity to speak what they know or believe, and then you listen much. Now, you are in the position to weigh what they say in accordance with truth revealed by the Spirit, and can weigh what they say against the scriptures. Your attitude toward the person is to approach them in love and humility, in gentleness and showing respect. You are now reaching out to a person in love, believing the best of another person, keeping no record of wrongs, and without preconceived ideas. And if there is something they say that reveals to you improper behavior, then you too can then straighten that out with him. But avoiding people simply because of conclusions and false perceptions, and not facts, is not acting in love, when the Spirit of God is prompting you to speak with him.
We are going to do a brief review. The title of this segment is Substitutes for Love. We talked about 1 Corinthians 13, a verse of scripture, that would do us well if we read it every day.
1 Corinthians 13:1
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
In other words, I am just a noise maker.
1 Corinthians 13:2
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
All of these things are called interpretive language, an hyperbole, an exaggeration in order to make a point.
1 Corinthians 13:3
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
To the world, we would look at all of these deals as admirable things, and probably award an oscar for those, or some type of a medal, one way or another. God says all these things are outward, but I look on the inward, and what I am looking for is love. If you do not have love, then as far as I am concerned, you do not have anything. We went last week to the story that so many of us have heard so many times, over and over again, the story of Martha and Mary.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
We look at those stories, and we realize that here was Martha, who was busy doing, and to relate this to modern day, busy doing all of our Christian activity, all the cooking and preparation, and all of these things. Here was Mary wanting to sit at the Lord’s feet to learn. Martha was trying to get her out of that learning process and get her busy.
That is exactly what the church has done today. The church used to be an institution for learning. In Acts, we read that they met daily. For what? Washing dishes? No.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Those are spiritual functions. But you see what the Lord says. People say, “No, Let us get a lot of activities, and let us get people busy because if people get busy they have a sense of ownership with what they are busy with, and we can keep them hanging in here forever with jobs.” So, the whole concept of church has become like an organization. Let us get everybody busy. Busy and Barren is the title of a chapter in my book, Classic Christianity.
So church has become, “Let us put the emphasis off of sitting at the feet of Christ and learning from him.” That does not have any benefit. “You cannot get them to tithe with just that. You have to get them busy so they can say, ‘This is my building. This is my identity. This is my denomination. I am going to work to build it. I do not care if it is lousy. Nobody better say anything against it because it is mine.’”
People have substituted learning truth with activity. This Mary and Martha story is a story that is so evident and so appropriate today in regard to the condition of the Christian church that is more interested in activity than it is in teaching people the truth of the word of God. Yet, people say, “If I am going to teach anyone anything, then it ought to be to keep people busy for the Lord.” We hear that, “work for the Lord” and that is all anyone talks about. It makes no difference if you know anything about Him or if you have come into relationship with Him. It makes no difference if you have this vital, pulsating relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. It is just getting busy and active. That is how you build numbers. People will see all this activity going on. This is a place with activity, people and programs. All of a sudden you have all these people flocking for those things, but ignoring totally getting to know the Lord. What do people have to do? They raise money to coerce people to build bigger buildings in order to house activity in the name of Christ.
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus said, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed, and that is to get to know me. You are upset over all of these things but you are not getting to know me.”
That is the condition, many times, in life. That is so subtle. We can get that in our homes. You can get into a situation. People have gone out and bought a new home. It wasn’t what it was supposed to be. So you are thinking about remodeling. Then you are thinking about the backyard. You are thinking about this. I have seen that in my own family. All of a sudden you get preoccupied with these kinds of things and your family is falling apart. That can happen to us. A lot of people get divorced over building a home. If that will not do it, just wallpaper your house with your wife some time, and that for sure will take care of it. You get so preoccupied with things that you forget your relationship with the Lord.
All of a sudden a little speck appears, and the closer you get to that speck, the bigger it looks. That speck is stuck on your face and you cannot see anything else except that speck. So Jesus is saying, “Bob, Bob, or Martha, Martha, whoever it might be, you are worried and upset about many things but only one thing is needed, and that is to sit at my feet and to learn of me.”
All of these things we are so concerned about are going to go away someday. We can be sitting here and be concerned about buildings and all of this type of thing. But we have to hold onto things loosely. Why? Because they are temporal. All of those things are temporal. The building we are in is temporal. The equipment we use is temporal. What is eternal is that relationship with Christ Jesus our Lord. That is where our emphasis has to remain.
This is a marvelous story, a reminder to Bob, Bob, Mary, Mary, Bill, Bill, or whoever you might be. You are worried and upset about many things but there is only one thing necessary. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. This is so important for us to get a handle on. We are not going to learn to love God or love others through work. We are only going to learn to love others when we get to know the author of love, who is Christ, and to sit at His feet until we got that.
We were talking about that fact, how the flesh resists this type of thing. At the break we talked about this. “Oh, you have to go out and be working.” You listen to that and it kind of makes sense. Someone sarcastically asks, “How about the person in medical school?” “Okay, wise one.” How many operations did you do while you were in medical school? None. How many prescriptions did you write when you were in medical school, because you are not authorized to? You are in medical school but you cannot write prescriptions. How many people did you heal while in medical school? None. The reason is someone along the line said you have to block out eight years until you learn what you do. How many cases did you try before you graduated from law school? I am sorry for most of them even who have tried cases after graduating from law school. But there is at least a criteria that says that if you are not prepared to learn, you are not prepared to do.
We lost that concept in Christianity. What people have said is, “Come to Jesus and go get busy for Jesus.” I don’t even know who he is. I do not know anything about His love. My perception is based only on what someone has said. We are out doing until we have become who God wants us to be. So scriptures instruct us not to put a new believer into an important position. Why? They have not been equipped yet. They are equipped to work but they are not equipped to do the work of the ministry. How can I do the work of ministry? The work of ministry is faith. That is what Jesus said the work of ministry is. I do not know who I am having faith in. So what people have done is short-circuited getting to know the author of love for activity. Activity has become our God instead of Jesus.
Mary and Martha is a marvelous story to see phenomenal applications to the condition of the Christian world today. We then talked last week about Revelation 2:3-4.
2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.
That almost sounds contradictory. What do you mean forsaking my first love? I endured hardships for you. I have tested truth against error. I hung in there and persevered. What do you mean that I have lost my first love? You have spent more time testing works of false prophets than you have sitting at my feet and getting to know me. There is no substitute for this. When we tell people to read scripture, we are not doing this from a legalistic standpoint. That is the only way you are going to get to know who Christ is.
5 “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[Proverbs 3:11-12]
It is misquoted because in Proverbs, it reads, “My Son do not make light of the Lords discipline and do not lose heart when he rebukes you because the Lord disciplines those he loves as a loving father with a small child.” When it was translated from the Hebrew into the Greek, the word had changed it’s meaning from “inquiring deeply with, in love” to “punished”. That is how it was translated in some translations, but it was a quote out of Proverbs and if you read it you will understand what it means. So the discipline of the Lord is not punishment.
11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.
Before we get on to 1 John, in all of our interpersonal relationships, remember when we were talking about that passage of how God scourges or punishes those he loves, and how we looked into what that meant in Hebrews 12:5-6. It means to get to the bottom of something. That is where a whip with bone in it got its name, from that concept of digging into something, of inquiring deeply within to get to the root cause of something.
We all come up with perceptions. How I perceive you is going to depend on how I respond to you. However I perceive you is going to depend entirely on how I respond to you. If I perceive you, and this happens in marriage, we begin to put conclusions on people. A perception of someone is a conclusion. Most conclusions that people come up with are based upon inadequate information. People are constantly making conclusions about things and others based upon totally inadequate information. People have a tendency that if a person does something, that the minute they do something, I perceive that is who they are. This gets back to a subject in regard to identity.
We know people who say that this person drinks a lot, so he is an alcoholic. This person is double-minded, so he is a schizophrenic. This guy goes to prayer meetings on Wednesdays so this guy is a Baptist. So we go through all of these things and we come up with perceptions, which is based upon inadequate information. We do this with one another. We can come up and say, “Well, I have lived with my husband long enough to perceive he is lazy.” “So how do you perceive your husband?” “Lazy.”
If I perceive my husband is lazy, I am going to respond to everything my husband does through that perception. If he wants to watch the last five minutes of a radio broadcast instead of taking out the garbage that you asked him to do, you will not perceive that situation as, “Oh, bless his heart. He wants to watch the last five minutes of the ball game.” It makes no difference if he takes the garbage out five minutes later. Or, “that lazy bum will not take out the garbage.” So you are going to respond according to perception. People put perceptions on each other. You do not have to go to a psychologist to put on a label on someone. People do that all the time.
I see this sometimes in marriage. Men are basically non-confrontive. I do not like confrontation. Now, if you disturb me enough, you will get a good confrontation. The way guys handle that deal is to punch somebody in the nose. That is how intelligent we are. The issue is we do not like confrontation. But women, through the liberation movement, we have twenty solid years of input in female minds that they are to be strong and bold and confrontational. So many times women have gotten confrontational. Yet, we are preoccupied as men are to be confrontational. After all I am, and I am this little woman, and I am confrontational. Most women can be confrontational because they do not have to worry about somebody punching her in the nose. Whereas if a man gets confrontational with another man he is liable to be in a fist fight with him. No wonder men are not so confrontational. The issue is, we run into this, and this perception has come.
All of a sudden, if I am married, and I am just as bold as brass, and I am a woman, and my husband is not confrontational, so I see him as a wimp. So I got all these things that need to get done. He will not get them done and he will not fight for these things. My husband is a wimp. So if I perceived my husband as a wimp, then everything he says and does, I am going to respond to everything he does through that perception that he is a wimp. Is that true he is a wimp because he is not confrontational? No, not at all.
As a woman starts expressing that, either quietly or just innuendo, the husband is thinking, “my wife thinks I am a wimp.” What do you think will happen? The husband will say, “I will show you I am not a wimp.” This is how this stuff can fall together. He shows her he is not a wimp and abuse takes place. There is more abuse going on today than there has been in the history of the world. There has never been in the history of the world where women have been bombarded on television and all kinds of media, that you are to be equal with a man and stand up and be somebody. So a woman, instead of being a loving, quiet spirit, as the bible says for a woman to be, they become bold as brass and become aggressive. We think it is wonderful and are proud of that type of thing. Because my husband is not that way, I perceive my husband as a wimp. Then an altercation happens in the home. What happened is you are functioning from a false perception.
My wife is criticizing me. That is a perception of her. If I think my wife is critical and that is my perception, then I am going to respond to everything she says as if she is critical. We do that. If you think I am critical, and I say to you, and you have eggs all over your chin slobbering in front of you. Boy, you got egg on your chin. If Bob George is critical, do you know how you will respond to that. You reply back, “You drop stuff too.” We become defensive. Why? Perception. This guy is critical and he is criticizing me, so I will go right after him. Why? False perception.
You cannot get away from these types of things. Recently we have been thinking these things through. I see the validity of these things as I have been thinking these things through. A false perception will produce an adverse response. Why do we have bad responses to each other, in marriage or business? False perception of each other.
I hear the word “psychiatrist”, and the first thing that comes to my mind is, he who needs help. That field drives me crazy. So when I hear somebody say something, my perception is wrong, and I am going to respond through that perception, instead of listening. Psychiatrist means nothing. The issue is what does a person say? I cannot match psychology against the word of God but I can match what they say up against the word of God just like I can match a preacher or myself up against it. So if I take time to listen to what the man says and match what he says against what God says, now, I am dealing with what is being said instead of a false perception of something.
What we are dealing with is the thinking of the world, of Satan up against the word of God, and in how we are going to respond to circumstances and people. For some reason, we as humans, we like to put each other in our egg crates. We feel secure that way. If I can put you in this slot and you in that slot. We also do that with personality types. This person is choleric. This person is sanguine. We love that type of thing because now I have a box to put you in. “That person is a Baptist. That is that guy who believes in that eternal security.” “This guy is a Methodist, and he does not believe in that.” We like to do that instead of taking the time to ask a person, “Hey brother, what do you think about this? What do you think the word of God is saying in regard to your eternal life that you have in Christ Jesus?” I do not want to do that. I do not want to take time with somebody. “Oh, he is a Nazarene, so he does not believe in eternal security, so why talk to him.” In other words, it is all of this categorizing, that is totally the characteristic of the flesh. We love to make a conclusion and put the person in a box. Now I do not have to deal with him, I do not have to think about him. I do not have to interact with him. I already have him categorized. He is already in my box. If I need to go to that box, fine. Otherwise, I can walk by him and ignore him. That does not make an ounce of difference to me. We love to do that.
I believe that is one of the things 1 John 2:16 is talking about.
1 John 2:16
16 For everything in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
So what are we thinking about here? I want to grab a hold of an eternal truth or do I want to grab a hold of a temporal truth that is worldly in nature? Again, whose voice are we listening to? Is God telling you to categorize your husband or to categorize your wife or to categorize your employees, to categorize your boss, to categorize your preacher, to categorize your congregation? Is God calling you to do that? There is the issue. Does God call you to form a conclusion about somebody, period? I do not think so.
What God is saying to you and me is what we need to do is deal with the facts. Deal with the facts, man. When a person is insulting you, my flesh says there is that old insulter. But the Spirit says to deal with the insult. You go to that person, and ask “Did you mean what you said? Is there something I have done to offend you?” So you straighten it out that way. But if I already have it categorized, I do not need to straighten it out. I do not need to straighten it out because you are a griper. You have always been a griper and you will probably go to heaven as a griper. So I do not need to deal with you if you are griping about something because you are a griper. That is how our relationships are so shallow. Oh, that is just a woman. Oh, that is just a man. That is just a black. That is just a white. We want to categorize everything. What God is saying to us, that is the thinking of the world. That is the old flesh that is craving to do that so you do not have to interact with people or love them.
How does God want you to look at these things? How does God want you to look at your wife? As a child of God. If she is not in Christ, then she needs to be a person who is a child of God. Her problem is down here and not in what she is doing. Her problem is her identity and who she is. There should be some compassion if she is not a child of God. Try to get them to become a child of God, for that is the solution to her problem regardless of what she is doing.
Your wife is your sister in Christ, a child of God. She has good points and bad points. She has pluses and minuses. She has strengths and she has weaknesses. Incidentally, so do I. We look at each other through the identity that God gave us. If God gave you an identity of being a child of God, then I cannot sit there and say, “yes, he is a child of God, but he is a griper.” No, that is a double identity. He is a child of God. And this child of God just griped about something I did. If that is the case, how do you straighten that out? By trying to get him to quit being a griper? No, because he is not a griper. He is a child of God. So should someone stop me from being critical. No, because I am a child of God who criticized. As an another example, are you an alcoholic or are you a child of God who drinks too much?
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