Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thorns, the Cares of this World, and the Deceitfulness of Riches

I was finding myself becoming more and more concerned about the world economic meltdown. It seems that every day we discover how yet another political or business leader has violated our trust. Our government "of the people, by the people and for the people" continues to encroach on our freedoms daily. Another announcement of layoffs and business contraction is delivered up to us with each headline. I asked myself, "How are we supposed to take all this and still maintain our Christian composure?"

I was reading the parable of the sower in the parallel passages of -

(Matthew 13:3-23)
(Mark 4:3-20)
(Luke 8:5-15)

I was specifically struck by the account of the seeds that "fell among the thorns". Jesus explained to His disciples that the sower sows the word of God. Those people that are among the thorns do "hear" the Word meaning they understand it. But other more pressing matters demand their attention and they begin to ignore the truth of the word and turn away from God. I became very concerned that I had allowed myself to become distracted by the cares of this world.

The parable mentions four things that caused the "thorn people" to turn from God. The other more pressing matters are described as -
  1. the cares of this world
  2. the deceitfulness of riches
  3. the pleasures of this life
  4. the lust of other things entering in


What does the bible have to say about such things?



In Christ's prayer for the saints in John 17:9-19, He said that we are not of this world but asked the Father to keep us through His name. Amazingly, He prayed that we not be taken out of the world but only that we be kept safe from the evil one. Then He sent us out into a world that hates us as it hated Him.



He did one thing though that we need to pay special attention to; He said, "for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth". He gave us God's word, His truth that we might be sanctified or set apart for a holy purpose by it.



God's truth separates us from the rest of this world. We are in the world but not of the world. We are not of this world and in 2Cor 6:17 we are told to separate ourselves from it.



In Luke 21:34 we're told, And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.

If we are separated from the world and are not in it, then we should not worry when those things Christ told us would manifest themselves at the time of the end surround us. The apostle Paul learned how to be content regardless of the circumstances in which he found himself. And he went through some trials and troubles like most of us have not ever experienced. (2Cor 11:23-33) Through it all he gloried of the things which concerned his infirmities.



Php 4:11-13 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (12) I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (13) I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.



Since we are only sojourners in this life, strangers in a strange land, we should strive to not allow ourselves to be caught up in the vanity and lust of it.

John 12:24-25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (25) He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

1Peter 1:3-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, (4) To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, (5) Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (6) Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: (7) That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:



While we experience trials and temptations, we should remain focused on the coming kingdom of God like a destination in the distance driving us ever onward. Though we be tempted and tried and refined as silver, we remain steadfast in our love of the Lord our God determined to hold on to our crown of glory.

Today it's easy to lose that focus with the ever present mantra surrounding us of "he must be doing something right, he's making a ton of money". In many respects, money and worldly gain has become our golden calf. But the bible tells us riches are no indication of godliness.



1Tim 6:5-12 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. (6) But godliness with contentment is great gain. (7) For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. (8) And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. (9) But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. (10) For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (11) But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. (12) Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

1Tim 6:17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;

We came into this world with nothing and we'll leave with nothing. This life is but a proving ground to see if despite all the distractions we will still obey God. Even the richest man that ever lived, King Solomon, said near the end of his life, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecc 12:13 ). All the rest is man's own vanity. Our true treasure, therefore, is in heaven, not on this earth. That which we value commands our attention.



Mat 6:19-21 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: (20) But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: (21) For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.



Take comfort in knowing that the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life is of no value. But seeking after the kingdom of God and His righteousness is all.



Mat 6:24-34 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (25) Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? (26) Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? (27) Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? (28) And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: (29) And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (30) Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (31) Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (32) (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. (33) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (34) Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.



Interestingly, this passage does NOT say anything about a 4,000 sq. ft. house or a BMW 750Li. (not that I have these things, but you get the point) We are promised food, drink and clothing. We are to be content with that, (remember Paul?) and all else is extra. Once we mentally "release" everything else, we find that we can more readily be content with that which we have. We're just passing through this world anyway and Jesus promised us that He will not forsake us. We need to believe Him and trust in His exceeding great and precious promises.

Deut 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.



Heb 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

2Pet 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.



This exercise has helped me to come to a place of peace, knowing that we can trust in our Lord to provide for each and every one of us. As things continue to fall apart (or fall into place, depending on your perspective) we can take comfort and be of good cheer knowing that Christ has overcome the world.



John 16:33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

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I strive to be as the Bereans spoken of in Acts 17:10-11 receiving the word with all readiness of mind, and searching the scriptures daily, whether those things are so. Check up on me in your own bible. Should you find me in error please let me know immediately. We must prove all things (1Thes 5:21) and rightly divide the word of truth (2Tim 2:15) together lest we be deceived. (Matt 24:24)

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