Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What Defiles Us?

          Nearly every day, we can pick up a newspaper and read about another food that has been found to be detrimental to our health.  Sometimes it seems so discouraging,  and often I wonder what will be the next demon in my cabinet.  Just the other day, I read an article about olive oil not being as healthy for us as canola oil.  Yet, for years, we have all heard the praises of this oil as being a heart healthy addition to our diet.
     All this consideration of food and diet can be mind boggling, and some folks seem obsessed with
eating just the right thing in order to maintain their health and peace of mind.  However, our existence is made up of more than issues like what we eat.
     In Mark 7:18b-23 (NAS), Jesus, who was speaking to His disciples, instructs them:  "Do you not see that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him; because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?  (Thus He declared all food clean) And He was saying, 'That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts and fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.  All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.'"
     This scripture points to the central issue we all must face.  What we harbor in our hearts is really what defiles us not what we eat on a daily basis.  Yes, we do need to watch out for our health.  Learning good nutrition habits and watching our diet can help to prolong our physical health.  But Jesus was concerned about our heart health....our spiritual heart health.
     Often, whether we want to admit it or not, we have thoughts which we know are not pleasing to the Lord; yet, we allow them to remain and eat away at our spiritual health.  No one else sees these secret sins but God does.  The only time our family or friends become aware of things which we hold in our thoughts or hearts is when we choose to act on them in direct disobedience to God.  This is what defiles us and hurts our relationship with others and with the Lord.  Our only recourse in
redeeming our spiritual health is to quickly confess our sins to God and repent (I John 1:9).  By doing this, we are instantly restored to right standing with our Father in heaven.
     Watching our diet and being good stewards of the physical                                                                                   bodies which He has given to us is indeed important, but Jesus wants us to pay attention to the thoughts which we allow into our hearts.  He wants us to watch the words and actions that flow forth out of our lives.  Do these match with the life of one committed to Jesus Christ?  If they do not, it should be a "red flag" to us that we need to spend some time on our knees before the Father in serious prayer.  May our inner person of the heart reflect God's holiness in all that we do for this is the key issue to the abundant life in Christ.  Selah!

Friday, February 5, 2016

What Happened to Eve?

     My husband is famous for saying over and over, "It all started in the Garden."  Ask any of our Sunday school members and they will assure you that this is his favorite saying.  This is also a true statement for all the problems we face today as a the result of believing a lie in the Garden of Eden.  Adam and Eve fell into sin because they took their eyes off of their Creator and focussed instead on the prohibition to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  From that time until now, we have all lived with the fallen nature inherited from our first parents.  So what did Satan whisper in Eve's ear that twisted her understanding so that she was led to sin?
     Sinclair Ferguson in his wonderful book, "The Whole Christ" writes this about Eve:  "What was injected into Eve's mind and affections during the conversation with the Serpent was a deep-seated suspicion of God that was soon further twisted into rebellion against Him....Trust in Him was transformed into suspicion of Him by looking at 'naked law' rather than hearing 'law from the gracious lips of the heavenly Father.'  God thus became to her 'He-whose-favor-has-to-be-earned.'" (Location 1486-1487)
     In their conversation the Serpent injected doubt into Eve's thinking as seen in Genesis 3:1: "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”  Planting doubt leads to mistrust and that is exactly what happened to Eve.  She began to doubt the character of God...His goodness, His care, His wisdom, His love for them.  This is one reason why we are so fortunate to have the whole Word of God to counsel and guide us.  As we read its pages, we are drawn into knowing the full character of God.  As a result, doubt is driven away and our minds are renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit applying the Word to our lives.
     Our flesh wants to look out for "self" and this is exactly what Satan appealed to when he spoke to Eve in the Garden.  He did not come out and attack God directly but insinuated that He was holding out on His creation.  The Lord did not want them to have the wisdom He had or at least this is the impression that the Enemy gave to Eve.  Instead of seeing God's love and glory, she saw Him as the One who wanted to deprive her of joy.  As Sinclair Ferguson says so well:  "Eve's rejection of God's law (antinomianism) was in fact the fruit of her distorted view of God (legalism)" (Location 1510 "The Whole Christ").
     Eve's twisted thinking is also ours until that time that God opens our eyes to the truth.  In coming to the knowledge of Jesus Christ as both our Savior and Lord, our thinking begins to change.  We come to see God's character, and the love that will never let us go.  He removes the stony heart of selfish pride and replaces it with the tender heart that finds joy in knowing Him.  It is a transformation that delivers us from a rebellious, self-centered worldview we have had since the day we were born.
     When I hear people tell me that God has too many restrictions and takes all the fun out of living, then I know they have never come to know His character and experience His forgiveness in Christ.  They are talking like Eve and falling for the lies of the enemy.  Life in this world without the Savior is bondage.  If we do not believe that, all we have to do is look around us and see the turmoil in this world.  God made a perfect place in Eden, but man chose to sin rather than obey.
     We do not have to believe the lies of the Serpent for we have the truth found only in the Bible.  It is there for us to read each day.  Daily we should cleanse our minds by looking into its pages and seeing the truth that God has for us.  What happened to Eve does not have to happen to us.  Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Therefore, let us take a lesson from our first parents.  Instead of doubt, let us trust the Lord with all our hearts.  Selah!