This Psalm could equally be titled, “What can the righteous do?” or “Panic and Stability”. This Psalm contains “faith’s response to fear’s counsel. The psalmist is in danger from the wicked, who are bending their bows and shooting at him, and either his friends or his enemies are advising him to take flight” (Psalms, Volume 1, Boice, p. 91).
11:1 “How can you say to my soul, ‘Flee as a bird to your mountain’”: This could have been advice that David was hearing from his enemies (Nehemiah 6:10-13), or even more dangerous, well-meaning but erroneous advice from his friends, like Peter’s advice to Jesus in Matthew 16:22. “The plea to get away into hiding is still ringing in David’s ears as he begins his reply” (Kidner p. 73). One can understand why advisors might give David this advice, that is, David is the mainstay of the people, the one man supposedly holding the nation together, his life must be saved at all cost. 11:2 “To shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart”: “An ambush is being set. Known enemies can be dealt with; it is the unknown who are so intimidating” (Mastering the Old Testament, Psalms 1-72, Donald Williams, p. 100). “The longing for flight may come from David’s own fear—-an outside advisor. He is faced with the alternative that confronts us all in crises: make God your refuge or try to create your own. The ultimate issue is whether we will trust Him or trust ourselves. Who will be the effective God in our lives?” (p. 100). Yet for an answer, “David will look up and see the immense realities that overshadow these events” (Kidner p. 73).
11:3 “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”: This is a statement that may have been made by those giving David the advice to flee. David’s advisers were afraid because they saw only frightening circumstances and crumbling foundations. “More than fifty years ago Arno. C. Gabelein called this the burning question of our day” (Boice p. 91).
What Can The Righteous Do When…..
Morality is undermined and evil sweeps unchecked?
The Bible is attacked and its teachings are ridiculed and ignored?
Even professed Christians support the rising tide of unbelief?
Family values are crumbling and the tide of frequent divorce sweeps forward with increasing damage to children, parents, and society alike?
Everything around us seems to be giving way?
This is still a common question among God’s people. It is frustrating to feel powerless in the face of crumbling foundations, and some become convinced that there is nothing we can do. Added to this, some follow the poor advice of “flee”, or in our modern times, “hunker down, get in the bunker, save yourself and your children and withdraw completely from society”. When the foundations are crumbling the temptation is to stop speaking, and stop being the city set on the hill. “What can the righteous do? They can go on being righteous. And they can stand against the evil of their society… The one thing they must not do is, ‘flee to the mountains’” (Boice p. 95).
11:4 “The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven”:
It is interesting that the question being asked by those controlled by fear is “What can the righteous do?”, yet the real question is, “To whom shall the righteous look?” There is nothing they can do if they look to themselves, however there is a lot they can do if they look to the Lord. The Lord is the only one to whom we can look when the foundations are shaken, “and He is the only one to whom we must look if we are to stand firm in unsettling times” (Boice p. 94).
11:4 “Is in His Holy Temple”: People had advised David to flee and hide in face of the opposition, yet the Lord that David serves has not fled. “The Lord’s throne is in heaven”: While it looks like the moral foundations among men are crumbling the truth is that God still reigns from heaven and all the eternal foundations are firm and secure. “The King is in residence, not in flight. His city ‘has foundations’, therefore the question of verse 3 can be asked without despair” (Kidner p. 73). So when David looks to the Lord who dwells in His holy temple and reigns on His throne, he is looking to the Lord as the moral standard by whom the thoughts, words and actions of all men will be judged. Remember:
Even if no one believes in God, God still exists.
Even if no one believes that the Bible is the word of God, it is still the truth.
Even if no one cares for the teachings of the Bible they will still judge everyone on the last day.
Even if no one thinks that judgment day will arrive, Jesus will still come and execute His judgment.
New Testament Christians also lived during a time of “crumbling foundations”, yet they were reminded that God’s truth was still valid, the eternal foundations were still in tact; do not be deceived when people claim otherwise (Ephesians 5:6).
11:4 “His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men”: Notice how “looking up” solves all David’s fears and problems. When he remembers that God has not fled and that God still reigns he also remembers God observes all that people do (see Proverbs 15:3). David does not need to flee when people seek to ambush him from the darkness (11:2). Although the righteous may never see those who spread rumors about them or seek to undermine their efforts, the all-seeing Lord that we serve sees them.
11:5 “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked”: When God seems to move slowly this should not be interpreted as inaction or apathy. “His stillness is not inertia but concentration, and His patience gives opportunity to both the righteous and the wicked to show what they are made of” (Kidner pp. 73-74). So when the foundations appear to be crumbling in a culture, this is a test:
The righteous are tested. We will give up? We will join the rebellion? Will we stop speaking and seek a temporary but futile “safety”? Or, will we continue to be vocal and righteous?
The wicked are tested. Will they see the error of their ways? Will they own up to the fact that their efforts to undermine moral foundations are an attack upon their own survival? That attacking God’s truth or His people is a sort of self-cannalization?
11:5 “And the one who loves violence His soul hates”: “What do we do when the foundations are destroyed? Psalm 11 answers this question by giving us another foundation: Trust in the Lord. Make Him our security, our refuge. Know that He inhabits eternity and reigns over the chaos of this world. His throne is in heaven. His moral order and kingdom transcend this world and cannot be overthrown. He is the just judge who tries all hearts and hates men of violence” (Williams p. 102). Even Christians can end up putting their confidence or trying their faith to the wrong things. We get discouraged when we hear surveys that mention declining morals or a lessening of religious fervor in our nation. And the wicked tend to rejoice at the same news, but none of this impacts the true foundations. Even if every Christian on earth ceased to exist, the real foundations would be just as sound and firm. Only eight people believed in God at one time on the earth (2 Peter 2:5), yet God was just as powerful and intervened. The foundations are still in tact!
11:6 “Upon the wicked He will rain snares”: God not only reigns, He observes all men, examines and tests the righteous and the wicked, and lastly He prepares judgments for the wicked. “They may be preparing to shoot at the righteous from the shadows. But the Lord will protect the righteous, and in the end the wicked will themselves be shot at and destroyed. None of this is fantasizing or mere wishful thinking on David’s part” (Boice pp. 95-96). “Fire and brimstone”: This clearly seems to be a reference to the historical destruction that befell the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). It reminds us that the Bible is not a book of empty threats; God’s judgments do come (2 Peter 3:10). Neither is this statement some “mean-spirited and unspiritual attitude found in the Old Testament”, the same reality was noted by Jesus (Matthew 25:41) and the apostles (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
11:7 “For the Lord is righteous; He loves righteousness; the upright will behold His face”: The reason that the upright will behold His face is because God loves upright individuals. The intense hatred that His has for not only violent individuals but also the arrogant and the immoral (Revelation 21:8) is more than equaled by an intense love for godly people. The person who believes that God will just save most people in the end, no matter what they believe or how they live, has completely missed the point that God is a holy God. In addition, what overshadows David’s true statements about the fate of the wicked is his own fate and the fate of all the righteous. The reason that David is not discouraged by the idea of so many people ending up in hell is that the prospect of him being in heaven overshadows such a reality. The believer desires people to be saved but in the end the believer is completely focused on the glories of heaven. “The foundations of righteousness are none other than His nature and will: what He is and what He loves (7). And if the first line of the psalm showed where the believer’s safety lies, the last line shows where his heart should be. God as ‘refuge’ may be sought from motives that are all too self-regarding; but to behold His face is a goal in which only love has any interest” (Kidner p. 74).
A. WE ALL SHOULD UNDERSTAND THE EFFECTS OF NEGLECT.
1. We won’t neglect things that are important, car, education, pets.
2. We know that neglect can destroy.
B. IT SEEMS STRANGE THAT SOME NEGLECT THEIR SOULS.
1. What is more important? (Matt. 16:25-26).
2. Nothing else lasts forever (Matt. 25:46).
3. Nothing is more fragile – Then why do some neglect?
C. SOME DON’T REALIZE THE RESULT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE.
I. SOMETIMES CHRISTIANS NEGLECT THEIR SALVATION.
A. BY NEGLECTING THINGS THAT PERTAIN TO SALVATION.
1. We neglect our personal lives and conduct.
a. Danger (1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Cor. 11:3; Heb. 12:1).
b. We must watch (1 John 5:18; 1 Pet. 5:8; 2 John 8; 1 Tim. 4:16).
c. And develop the right attitude toward sin (Rom. 12:9; 2 Tim. 2:22).
d. That attitude must be cultivated (1 Pet. 1:1-2; 1 Tim. 4:7-8)
2. We neglect growth (2 Pet. 3:18).
a. We are to study (1 Pet. 2:1-2).
b. With purpose (1 Pet. 3:15; 2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 5:12; Psa.. 1:1-3).
3. We neglect our friends and neighbors (Rom. 10:13-14).
a. God’s plan (2 Tim. 2:2).
b. What about our family? (Eph. 6:4).
4. We neglect God’s work.
a. Our purpose (Titus 2:14; Eph. 2:10).
b. God’s tools (Phil. 2:12-13; Rom. 6:12-13).
5. We neglect the local work.
a. What is the local congregation? “Agreement to pool resources, abilities, and actions under a common oversight to accomplish common goals.’
b. To be committed to Christ we must fulfill the commitment t the local church. He ordained it – we have a duty (1 Cor. 12:14-18; Eph. 4:11-16).
c. “Let us consider one another …” (Heb. 10:25).
B. BY FAILING TO COMMIT OURSELVES FULLY.
1. Commitment is expected of us (Luke 9:22-24; Rom. 12:1; Gal. 2:20).
2. this will effect our relationship to other things (Luke 14:25-26; Phil. 3:7-8).
3. Salvation involves striving (Phil. 1:27).
4. NOTHING and no one can make us quit or do less than our best.
Is our faith people oriented or God oriented?
C. BY FAILING TO DO ANYTHING AT ALL (James 1:21-22).
1. Salvation will not rub off others onto us. It is not a contagious virus.
2. Do we teach against faith only doctrine, but live faith only lives ?(2:24).
II. THOSE OUTSIDE THE BODY OF CHRIST NEGLECT.
A. CONSIDER THESE VERSES (Matt. 24:44; 25:13).
B. HAVE YOU USED THESE EXCUSES:
1. Felix (Acts 24:25).
2. Agrippa (Acts 26:28).
C. CAN YOU AFFORD TO PUT OFF OBEDIENCE? (James 4:17).
A. MANY WILL BE LOST BECAUSE OF NEGLECT.
B. WHY WOULD ONE NEGLECT THIS GREAT SALVATION?
1. Failure to see the value of the soul?
2. Failure to see the urgency of the situation?
3. Ignorance of what is right?
Seeing that scripture is nothing less than the words of our very Creator, it’s no wonder that throughout the centuries men and women have been astonished by them. King David said, “The law of the Lord is perfect” (Psalm 119:7). Jesus said, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). The apostle Paul said, “All Scripture is inspired of God and profitable” (2 Timothy 3:16). The writer of the book of Hebrews observed, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). Others, closer to our lifetimes have said similar things:
Yale professor William Lyon Phelps noted, “Our civilization is founded upon the Bible. More of our ideas, our wisdom, our philosophy, our literature, our art, our ideals come from the Bible than from all other books combined” (No Room for Doubt, Lee Williams, p. 36).
Abraham Lincoln said, “But for the Bible, we could not know right from wrong”. Remarks upon the Holy Scriptures, in receiving a present of a Bible from a Negro delegation, Sept. 7, 1864.
John Quincy Adams said, “The Bible is the book of all others to read at all ages and in all conditions of human life; not to be read once, or twice, or thrice through, and then laid aside; but to be read in small portions of one or two chapters a day” (What’s So Great About the Bible, Hefley, p. 72).
Added to this, the Bible is the number one best-seller in the world and has been for centuries. It is the most widely translated book on the planet. The Bible has been published in 2,123 different languages. One study indicated that half of the American population reads some portion of the Bible at least once a month. No other book is read as often.
The Overall Theme
As many know, the Bible is a collection of sixty-six books, written by about forty different authors, living on several different continents, in different languages, and separated from one another by some sixteen centuries. Yet, the end of the Bible concurs with the beginning; the same truth is taught throughout on thousands of different subjects. Here is just one example:
The Law gives the foundation for Christ
The Historical books show the preparation for Christ
The books of poetry express the aspiration for Christ
The books of prophecy proclaim the expectation of Christ
The gospels record the historical manifestation of Christ
The book of Acts relates the preaching of Christ
The Epistles give the interpretation of Christ
The book of Revelation reveals the consummation of Christ
What some forget is that no human publisher commissioned the writing of the Bible. No human editor set forth a plan; no editorial committee oversaw its development, and no one distributed an outline to the various authors.
It Answers all the “College Questions”:
Who am I? Genesis 1:26
Why am I here? Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
Where did I come from? Ecclesiastes 12:7
What is my purpose? 1 Peter 2:9-10
What is the significance of my life? Matthew 16:26
Where am I going? 2 Corinthians 5:10
What is my destiny? Matthew 25:46
What should I do? Ephesians 2:10
How should I live? Galatians 2:20
No wonder Paul said the Scriptures will make the man of God complete for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Hebrew writer said that the Word of God is able to pierce as far as the division of soul and spirit, and is able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). The fact that it answers and addresses the deepest questions that can possibly dwell in the human heart, only validates such a statement.
Concise and Useful
Here is what two authors said about the Sermon on the Mount recorded in three Bible chapters, Matthew 5-7: “If you were to take the sum total of all authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene – if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage – if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the sermon on the mount” (A Few Buttons Missing, J.T. Fisher, L.S. Hawley, p. 273). Thomas Jefferson described the teaching of Christ as, “The most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has been offered to man” (Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Adams in 1813).
It has been admitted by many that Jesus certainly taught the highest moral standard know to man. So how do we account for this fact? William Jennings Bryan said of Jesus, “Reared in the home of a carpenter, never having access to the (secular) wisdom of the past, never coming in contact with the sages of other lands, and yet, when only thirty years of age He gave to the world a code of morality the like of which the world has never seen” (The Greatest Thoughts about Jesus Christ, Lawson, p. 138).
The Bible’s Moral Influence
Even though it seems that fewer people are following the Bible, this country is still coasting on the values derived from the Scriptures. Daniel Webster was once asked, “What is the most important thought you ever entertained?” He replied, “The thought of my individual responsibility to God” (Lawson, p. 120). Even Charles Darwin observed, “A man about to be shipwrecked on some unknown coast will devoutly pray that the lesson of the missionary will have reached that far?” He meant that where the Gospel has not gone civilization has not gone, and such a shipwrecked man would likely find himself in the soup tureen of a tribe of husky cannibals (What if the Bible had never been Written? D. James Kennedy, p. 42).
The Bible and Law
“The statutes of the Lord as right” (Psalm 19:8). William Blackstone (1723-1780) wrote a multivolume series of commentaries on British law. Since 1793 our United States Supreme Court has referred to Blackstone over 272 times. Blackstone wrote, “Upon these two foundations, the law of nature (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20), and the law of revelation (The Scriptures), depend all human laws; that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these” (Blackstone, Commentaries, 1:42). Blackstone equally noted, that the belief in heaven and hell makes all the difference in whether or not people obey the laws of the land.
The Bible and Science
As you may have noticed, we live in a modern culture that often rejects the idea of absolute truth, nevertheless modern science could have never even arisen in such a godless culture, for where there are no absolutes, there would be no absolutes even in nature – thus all experimentation would be only relative. The early scientists shared the outlook of Christianity, that is, believing that there is a reasonable God who has created a reasonable universe, and thus man, by use of his reason, could find out the universe’s form. Now relativism is currently fashionable among the so called “wise of this age”. “Among the intelligentsia, there is a relativistic movement claiming that the text has no specific message or truth contained in it, but only the meaning and message perceived by the individual reader. Applied to the Bible, this view is basically saying that the Bible says whatever you think it says, and what message or truth you get from it is entirely up to you” (Kennedy, p. 243). God is not impressed and neither should we. “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor. 1:20)
The Challenge in our Time
With fewer young people are reading books, there is a danger that the present generation is being disconnected from the history of the past, and that the lessons from past generations, especially concerning morality and responsibility are not being passed on. The challenge then becomes clear: Let us continue to become experts in this amazing book, and speak out confidently its life-changing, eternity-changing truths everywhere we go.
1. If our word expresses who and what we are, how much more does the word of God do so of Him?
2. God’s word is not bound (restrained), 2 Tim 2:9 (Isa 55:11).
3. God’s word is a powerful instrument, Heb 4:12.
a. Word of Christ is powerful (Lk 4:32, 36; 5:1).
b. Those who hear and keep God’s word are blessed (Lk 11:28).
4. Why we must know God’s word, Psa 119:1-8: Blessed and undefiled (1-2), avoid sin and no shame (3-6), praise God (7), obey God (8).
5. The power of God’s word compels responses of trust and obedience in us.
I. GOD’S WORD: A CREATIVE FORCE.
A. The Physical World, Heb 11:3; 2 Pet 3:5; Gen 1:3, 6; Psa 33:4-9.
B. Man’s Spiritual Life, Matt 4:4.
1. Power to produce faith, Rom 10:17.
2. Power to save, Rom 1:16; Jno 8:31-32, 51; 17:17; Acts 13:26; 2 Cor 5:19; Eph 1:13; 5:26; Jas 1:18, 21; 1 Pet 1:22-23.
II. GOD’S WORD: A SUSTAINING FORCE.
A. The Physical World, Heb 1:3 (preservation); 2 Pet 3:7 (Psa 147:15-18).
B. Man’s Spiritual Life, 2 Pet 1:3; Matt 13:23.
1. Spiritual growth, 1 Pet 2:2.
2. Protection against evil, Eph 6:17; 1 Jno 2:14.
3. Instruction in righteousness, 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2:15.
4. Hope and grace, Col 1:5-6.
III. GOD’S WORD: A JUDGING FORCE.
A. The Physical World, cf. 2 Pet 3:7, 10, 12.
B. Our Life on Earth, Jno 12:48; Rev 20:12.
1. Our words, Matt 12:36-37.
2. Our thoughts and motives, 1 Cor 4:5.
3. Our actions, 2 Cor 5:10.
4. Our religious beliefs and practices, 2 Tim 4:1-4.
IV. PRACTICAL RESULTS OF HONORING THE POWER OF GOD’S WORD(what we will do when we honor God’s word):
A. Spend Time with God’s Word, Psa 119:97; 1:2.
B. Use God’s Word Every Day in your Life, Psa 119:104-105, 133.
C. Share God’s Word with Others, Mk 16:15.
1. God is active in the world and in your life through His powerful word:
a. In the world: God is holding all things together, and offering salvation to a lost world through faith that will obey the word of Jesus Christ.
b. In you: As you obey God’s word, Phil 2:12-13.
2. Man’s word has no power to create or save. All of our judgments will be judged by the One who judges all.
3. We must conform to His word; Live under its power and receive its blessings.
It is tempting to look at verses that tell us what to remove from and add to our lives and get quite overwhelmed in the process. Do the following passages intimidate you with their stress on a complete overhaul?
2 Peter 1:5-11 “Add to you faith…”
Colossians 3:5-13 “Put them all aside”
What the Devil wants you to Believe:
“So much is wrong with you that it will take years to see any improvement”
“You are too far gone”
“The sinful habits you have forged are impossible to break”
“No one can ever really change”
“The only change possible is merely superficial”
“This is just who you are; you will never be any different”
“God expects too much of you”
“The people who spur you toward change just don’t understand the depth of the problem”
The Countless Failures We See
The devil likewise wants us to zero in on all the people who have attempted to live the Christian life and have gone back to the world. First, the sad reality is that if you want to seek them out, you can find many people that fit into this category, including many people who were raised by Christian parents and were thus privileged to have spiritually encouraging environments and yet failed to take advantage of those blessings. The Bible likewise is filled with examples of people who had tremendous opportunities they squandered:
Adam and Eve: Genesis 3:1ff
Cain: Genesis 4:2ff
Esau had great parents: Genesis 25:32; 26:34-35; Hebrews 12:16-17
The children of Israel: 1 Corinthians 10:1-12
Many of the people who heard Jesus teach and saw His miracles
Demas: Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10
In all these examples we see how resistant and defiant mankind can be even when showered with blessings, and even when God actually speaks and acts in a miraculous fashion. People can rebel in even ideal surroundings.
Quick and Drastic Changes
Yet, the opposite is also true. The Bible equally contains examples of people who drastically changed in a short time, people who changed despite a horrible upbringing, difficult circumstances, or people who came to God when it looked as if everything was against such a choice:
The people of Nineveh: Matthew 12:41. An entire city repented immediately!
The Corinthians: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Such were some of you”
Onesimus: Philemon 11. A useless man is suddenly useful!
The Colossians: Colossians 3:5-7 “you were living in them”
So how do we explain the people who seemed to have every advantage and yet failing and the people who seemed to have everything in the deck stacked against them – and succeeding? Allow me to suggest the following:
Environment is not all-powerful. It is obviously influential, yet with the power of God’s word applied, we can overwhelmingly conquer.
Free will can trump anything we’ve been exposed to whether through – “nurture” OR “nature”. The bad news is that we can use our free will so poorly that we squander blessings; the good news is that we can by the same token walk away from what might look like an impossible situation. How reassuring to know the enemy cannot keep anyone against his or her own will.
Many Things, Or A Couple Things?
It is easy to think that there are all sorts of things wrong with us, yet there are a couple of biblical examples that suggest that what might look like many things, all comes back to one thing:
“For were jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing” (James 3:16).
This verse suggests that many sins can originate and spring from one sinful attitude, that is, selfishness. Grow in selflessness, and many problems resolve themselves.
“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).
This verse reveals that the basic sin of covetousness, or greed, produces all sorts of secondary problems. Focus on the spiritual over the material, and certain troubles dissipate.
Matthew 19:20-21 “What am I still lacking? Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me’”
The young ruler asked, “What do I lack?” Jesus did not say, “Oh, you lack in many areas”. Neither did Jesus tell him there were countless things wrong with him. Rather, he lacked in one specific area. If you are struggling with temptation and finding a particular sin continues to have success against you, do not despair. You don’t have thousands of problems; rather, you will have success when you address the root issue.
“And so we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19).
Now some would argue that the Israelites had all sorts of problems, yet the Holy Spirit gets down to the root issue. All their complaining, murmuring, lusting, etc., all of it went back to one basic issue: They refused to trust God. They did not need to be fixed or rehabilitated in 100 different areas; rather, they needed to fix one thing. If they had simply trusted God’s care, protection, love and timing, everything would have been different. When one resolves the trust problem other problems are automatically settled. Do not address the trust problem and you will have countless other problems.
These qualities initially kept Naaman from being healed (2 Kings 5:11). Then there is a radical change in Naaman. Until he addressed that root problem, he was insulted and furious (5:11-12), when he confronted it and humbled himself, he was obedient and eventually healed (5:15-18). The difference is instant, and for that reason, amazing. It is as if there were two Naamans in this chapter who seemed to have nothing in common with each other. The “old man” is speaking in 5:11-12, the “new man” is speaking in 5:15-18. It is amazing how much a person can change when they humble themselves and discard the pride and the “I’ve got a better idea than God” attitude.
Zaccheus goes from a man who had been possessed by his wealth, to a man whose wealth had instantaneously lost its appeal (Luke 19:6-9).
Peter writes to Christians who had lived to the full when it came to sexual immorality (1 Peter 4:2-3, 4). And what has surprised their former friends is the “cold turkey” approach to these things – the sinful lifestyle had simply, suddenly stopped, “…they are surprised that you do not run with them” (4:4).
“I used to think this verse (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) was talking mainly about the formal and philosophical business of apologetics in defending the Scriptures against heresies… but the arguments – those that I am to destroy are first of all my own arguments. They are the cacophony of voices that I hear in my head all day long that tell me that I am worthless or that I am better than someone or that I cannot be happy unless X,Y, and Z are in place. They are my unbiblical theories and strategies about life and relationships that I somehow continue to put credence in… They are the endless ‘what ifs’ that paralyze action, and the bottomless churning cesspool of ‘what can go wrong’ that choke every potential act of faith. Like a penny arcade battling practice where you put in your token and it keeps hurling baseballs at you, the heart lobs one argument after another in objection to the peace and joy and faith that God has for us. It has to end right now. The tapering off approach won’t do. And this is how I will do it: I praise God this minute for everything I can think of – His love, my salvation, the faith I have… and anything else I can possibly construe as a gift. Out loud, if necessary” (Destroying Arguments, Andree Seu, Worldmag.com).
By Wayne Jackson
In one of his compositions, poet John Donne had this phrase: “No man is an island.” Whatever the expression meant to him, it contains a general truth.
None of us lives an isolated existence. While we see ourselves in a certain light, others may view us quite differently. Our Creator assesses us with absolute accuracy!
Our View of Ourselves
One’s view of himself can be very misleading, and to a degree most likely is usually the case.
Robert Burns wrote a poem titled “To a Louse” in which he described an uppity woman who strutted into church one Sunday in all her finery, totally unaware there was a louse crawling on her bonnet. Obviously she viewed herself as a woman of beauty and dignity. But one line has it: “If we could only see ourselves as other people see us.”
Five times in the book of Proverbs, Solomon speaks of those who are self-deceived. He describes how some are perceived in their own eyes. They view themselves as wise (3:7), or as always being right (12:15; 21:2), or clean (16:2), or pure (30:12). But they are looking into reflections of self-deception.
One can only have a correct perception of himself when he looks into the mirror of God’s word, and does not forget the imperfect image he sees (cf. Jas. 1:23-24). Paul cautions us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought (Rom. 12:3).
On the other hand, it is no sin to express a confidence in one’s dedication to the Savior. Paul did not hesitate to catalog his sacrificial credentials when such was to the advantage of the gospel (Phil. 3:4ff).
How Others View Us
While no one should strive to dishonestly solicit an inaccurate impression of himself by others, scripture does emphasize the power and necessity of providing a good example for others (1 Cor. 11:1; Tit. 2:7). Even when we do our best, there are times when others will view us negatively.
Not even the blessed Son of God was exempt from negative criticism. He was accused of being born of fornication, of being a despised Samaritan, being demon possessed, and of joining in league with Satan (Jn. 8:41, 48; Mt. 12:24).
By way of contrast, some are seen as paragons of virtue when they are just the opposite. Sports stars are applauded, when some of them are moral trash. Even some preachers are elevated beyond the status of their character.
In the Old Testament, Saul, Israel’s first king, began his administration in a reign of glory. He was deemed “goodlier” than all others in Israel. He stood above the people from his shoulders upward, and the women composed songs to celebrate his courage and victories (1 Sam. 9:2; 18:7). But he became a major character disappointment.
Barnabas had a good reputation, earned and well deserved (Acts 4:36-37). Likely Ananias and Sapphira wanted the same acclamation (note the contrasting conjunction in Acts 5:1) and attempted to hijack it—the subterfuge costing them their lives (vv. 1-11).
God’s View of You
Paramount, however, above all others (even though they are important) is the Lord’s view of us, for he does not merely observe the externals; instead, he sees the heart (1 Sam. 16:7; Jn. 2:25; Acts 1:24).
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were notorious for their religious theatrics. They were “show-offs” when giving their contributions, they struck a pose on the street corners as they prayed, and when they fasted they “disfigured their faces” (Mt. 6:1-18). They even made self-serving speeches, congratulating themselves for their supposed virtues (Lk. 18:11-12).
But the Son of God saw the matter differently, and in Matthew 23 he peeled off their hypocritical hides, exposing to the bone their self-centered wickedness.
The concluding document of the New Testament is the book of Revelation. Chapters two and three contain seven letters dispatched by Christ to seven congregations in Asia Minor. These were not the only churches of that region, but they are representative of congregations as a whole.
Each of these epistles contains the phrase, “I know” (2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15). Whether the phrase accompanied a commendation or a condemnation, the Savior viewed these brothers and sisters with precise accuracy. He indicated they would be judged accordingly—either with reward or punishment, consistent with the divine standard of judgment.
A wonderful study can be engaged by pursuing an investigation of the phrase, “in the sight of God” (found nineteen times in the Scriptures). The action or state may be applauded or condemned.
For example, those who are pretentious in one way, but act in quite another, are an abomination “in the sight of God” (Lk. 16:15). Those who take care for their aged loved ones are pleasing “in the sight of God” (1 Tim. 5:4).
Let each of us soberly reflect upon these different analytical views. (See also: The Bible and Self-Esteem.)
By Wayne Jackson
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the foundation truth of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:13-19). For that reason, occasionally the “resurrection” narrative has overshadowed the “ascension” record. But the ascension event is of equal significance, and careful attention should be given to it.
A thousand years before the Savior’s birth, David prophesied the ascension of Jesus when he announced the Lord’s enthronement at the Father’s right hand (Psalm 110:1). No other psalm is so frequently quoted in the New Testament – an indication of the importance of the event.
Though the disciples struggled with the concept of Jesus’ death, he told them plainly that he was going back to the Father (John 14:12). And, while on trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Jesus announced to the high priest that presently he would be “sitting at the right hand of Power” (Matthew 26:64). His “ascension” was one of the tests of Christ’s prophetic credibility.
Effected by God
Five times New Testament writers employ the Greek term analambano (to take up) of the Lord’s ascension (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:2,11,22; 1 Timothy 3:16). Each time the verb is in the passive voice, he “was taken up.” The passive voice represents the subject of the verb as being acted upon, thus, in this instance, indicating that the “taking up” was empowered from above, namely by God.
The ascension of Christ presents a problem for the opponents of Christianity. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, or if he somehow survived the ordeal of Calvary and died later (as Hugh Schonfield speculated in his infamous book, The Passover Plot), surely the Lord’s enemies would have vigorously sought to reclaim his body, thus nullifying the “resurrection” story. With such a “trophy,” Christianity could have been crushed in its infancy. Those efforts, however, if they occurred, were in vain. That lack of evidence indirectly supports the record of the ascension; there was no earthly corpse.
The apostles themselves witnessed the Savior’s ascension (Acts 1:9-11). Luke’s record of this event was under-girded by his careful research (Luke 1:3; 24:51), not to mention his guidance by the Spirit. Mark, who wrote under the tutelage of Peter (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 2.15), also took note of the ascension (Mark 16:19), and the event was taken for granted in the balance of the New Testament (Acts 2:33; Ephesians 4:8-10; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:1; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 3:22). At the time of his martyrdom, Stephen was permitted to actually see the ascended Christ, and petition him (Acts 7:55-60).
It is significant that Luke’s account of the ascension episode (Acts 1:9-11), consumes only 63 words in the Greek Testament. This brevity demonstrates:
the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit; strictly human journalistic impulses would have expanded the narrative considerably;
it suggests as well that the “ascension” event was never a point of controversy among the early disciples, thus requiring elaborate argumentation.
The Abiding Significance
There are several significant doctrinal points connected with the ascension of Christ. Let us consider some of these.
The ascension of the Savior is an integral part of the proposition that Christ is the “Lord,” who has the right to exercise “all authority” (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:20-23). On Pentecost, after arguing for the resurrection and ascension, Peter contended: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). Especially note the “therefore” connective.
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was implemented by the ascended Christ (Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:5; 2:33). This supernatural event authenticated the fact that the circumstances of that day, resulting in the establishment of the church of Christ, were divinely orchestrated. The Christian regime is from God, not man.
The ascended Christ empowered certain early disciples with miraculous gifts, by which the Mind of God was revealed to humanity and subsequently preserved in a body of sacred literature (see Ephesians 4:10ff). The present availability of this ancient record allows the modern student to “put to the test” the credibility of the primitive documents, find them to be trustworthy, and happily anchor his hope of heaven therein.
The ascension of Christ into heaven clearly reveals that, contrary to Jewish expectations (and even that of the misguided disciples), the Lord’s mission to this planet was not to overthrow Rome, and establish an earthly, political administration reminiscent of David’s (cf. John 6:15; 18:36; Acts 1:6). In the words of a poet:
They were looking for a king,
To slay their foes,
And lift them high.
Thou camest a little baby thing,
That made a woman cry.
Modern millennialists would do well to learn this important truth.
The ascension of Christ demonstrated the manner of Christ’s final return. The disciples “beheld” Jesus vanishing into the clouds (Acts 1:11b). The verb theaomai is employed 24 times in the New Testament, and never is it used in a figurative sense. They literally saw Christ ascend. Additionally, Luke emphasizes that “in like manner,” i.e., in a visible fashion, the Lord will return. The combination of these terms clearly indicates that the Savior’s second coming will be a literal coming. This eliminates the spurious notion that Christ’s representative “coming” (via the Roman armies — Matthew 22:7), in the overthrow of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:30), was his second coming (cf. Heb. 9:28). And yet the advocates of “realized eschatology” contend otherwise. Luke’s language also eliminates the theory that the Lord’s next “coming” will be an invisible “rapture-coming,” as dispensationalists project.
The ascension of Jesus provides us with a supreme confidence that we have a heavenly High Priest who, having been “crowned with glory and honor” (Hebrews 1:13; 2:7,9), ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25; cf. 1 John 2:1-2). This concept of a heavenly high priest is a prevailing theme in the book of Hebrews.
The ascension argues for the proposition that our eternal destiny will not be upon a “glorified earth,” as many affirm. Jesus entered heaven as a “forerunner” (one who goes in advance of others) for us (Hebrews 7:20). By his return to heaven, Christ “dedicated for us” a new and living way that is not earthly in nature (Hebrews 10:20). Earth is not heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).
The ascension of Christ underscores the fact that Christians are charged with the responsibility of implementing his will on earth, as he reigns from heaven. The Teacher’s parting words commissioned his people to make disciples of every creature among the nations throughout the earth (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47).
In the Parable of the Pounds, the Nobleman (Christ), who went into the far country (heaven), expected his servants to wisely utilize, on his behalf, that which had been placed at their disposal. The servant who ignored this obligation was rejected and punished, along with those characterized as “enemies” (see Luke 19:12-27; cf. Matthew 25:30).
The Lord uses no “feet” to go, nor “tongues” to proclaim, save ours. The treasure has been deposited with “earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Let us, therefore, shoulder the responsibility, and be honored thereby.