Todd lacked nothing his entire life. Growing up, mom and dad met every need. New clothes replaced old, outgrown ones. Spring break took the family to Hawaii, Cancun, Miami, New Orleans. On his 16th birthday, Todd received a new car. His parents covered most college expenses. When he graduated, his parents even offered him part of the family business.
So of course, Todd gladly took that offer. On the first day of work, dad says: “I want you to start in the warehouse and understand our shipping and receiving.”
Todd thought for moment. “No thanks, dad. Warehouse is pretty dirty work.”
“Alright then. Why don’t you join the sales team? See how we gain new business and keep accounts.”
“Nah, it’s too hard forging new partnerships.”
“What about accounting?”
“Too many numbers.”
“Then manage our network.”
“Eh… that’s takes too much time.”
Dad rattles off areas for Todd to contribute and Todd turns down each one. Finally, dad asks: “What would you like to do?” Todd stopped, mulled the question over for moment, stared straight at dad “Why don’t you buy me out?” (taken from: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/7279494/ns/business-us_business/t/when-kids-feel-entitled-family-business/).
Todd’s parents built this company from their poverty. They worked the long hours. They drove to make new clients. They took reduced salaries. It took decades for the business to become self-supporting. Todd’s wealth came from their effort. Yet, Todd fails to appreciate that hard work. Because he does not value their achievements, he feels entitled, he feels automatically worthy of deserving good things.
Forget the past and you will not value the present. That is why God repeats the past. The book of Deuteronomy repeats much of what is found in the book of Exodus. Here’s the reason why: God’s love is scorned if you do not understand why he loves you in the first place. So, go back. See your heart’s dire condition. See God’s undeserving affection. Then you clearly grasp how Grace Drives the Christian Life.
That’s why Moses, the long-serving Israelite leader, says: And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good? Before you being taking mental notes, thinking: “Alright, here’s what I need to do to love God better…” stop. Look at the first two words of verse 12: ‘And now…’ Those words do not present an order of events. (For example: (1) I woke up, then (2) I got dressed, and now (3) I am eating.) No, those words point back to an earlier event and then give cause for the present action.
So, what happened earlier? Well, Israel worshipped a golden cow. (Visit Deuteronomy 9:7-29 and Exodus 32:1-35) Understand, they are not praising a barnyard animal. Instead, they believed another god-like being existed and this being’s true image is a cow. Israel credits this made-up god with rescuing them out of Egypt, feeding them, and leading them. God looks down absolutely mystified. He unleashed ten powerful plagues. He held back the walls of the Red Sea. He literally led this group— a cloud by day and fire by night. He did not hide from them; everyone witnessed these events. His mighty power clearly revealed his mighty love. God has every right to wipe these ungrateful brats off the face of the earth. He could abandon them in this desolate desert, crying out to a god that does not exist. God does none of that. Instead, he forgives. That [event] is what happened forty years ago. Israel could look back and see life spared; they did not receive the punishment they deserved.
That remains a vitally important truth to remember. We— people called ‘Christian,’ literally identifying with ‘Christ’— receive what we do not deserve. Do you remember that? Your God lays out his high, holy commandments not only for these Israelites, but also for you (and me) to keep without fault. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matthew 22:37). Love God by wanting to be here, not complaining how inconvenient worship is today. Love God by giving him your honest offering without holding back because you love what money can buy. Love God by doing what he says because it is right. God desires absolute obedience from every fiber of your being every waking second.
We have not done that, have we? In fact, we usually admit quite quickly: ‘Well, no one’s perfect.’ That carries consequences! Forget that and we think God owes us good things! Of course, we would never come out and say that, but we embrace the thought. The heart likes to think that God will give you a good week because you’re in church. I mean, those not in church, well, they’ll probably get hurt or receive bad news. It makes sense that God rewards you for being here. You earned it! You deserve God giving you good because you did good. Your arm might get tired patting you on the back. You gave some groceries to the needy next-door neighbor. You waited at the bank entrance a little longer and held the door open. You complimented the cashier even when it took her 15-minutes to complete your order. No one else acts like that! God must see your outstanding behavior! So, you deserve God giving you good because you did good. Or, if you want to know if you are saved, just stare at you. You went to Sunday School. You memorized Bible teachings. You live sincerely devoted to God. Why would you not go to heaven? You behave good. You may even think you chose good. You deserve God giving you good because you did good.
Do you know what God would say to that? “You forgot the past.” To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. God Almighty created every single organism on earth, even brought you (and me) into this world. If God expects you (and me) to serve, to fear, to love him above all things, why would he reward you for doing what is expected? What does God owe you? Honestly, nothing. Just in case our hearts take issue with that, in case we want to point fingers and cry out: “God, I’m so much better than those skipping and driving around right now!” God says: the Lord set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you… God makes it explicitly clear: You did not choose him. You do not earn perks because of how you live. You are not entitled to heaven! Even this Israelite nation is not entitled to be God people.
So, why does God choose them? Because God chooses to. Yes, the heart argues: “Well, that does not make sense. Surely, they did something!” God says, “No. I chose them. I chose you. That is grace— love not deserved.”
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. God does not want your best, he wants your ‘perfect.’ He wants hearts that obey not out of necessity, but out of desire. He wants hearts that find him to be life’s happiest joy! He wants a heart like that of Jesus. A heart that worships, not to fulfill an obligation, but because the heart delights in hearing God speak. A heart that gives offering, a heart that gives healing, a heart that gives away food because that heart does not consider earth to be real treasure. A heart that loves God by correcting wrong because it is wrong.
Inside of Jesus beats a heart that fears, loves, and trusts in God above all things every waking moment. No wonder God looks at Jesus and cries out: “With you I am well-pleased!” (Matthew 3:17) No wonder God takes that innocent life and wraps it around your (and my) rebellious heart.
Dear friends, God’s command to love him above all things is certainly meant for us to obey. When we fail and guilt crushes us, look at Jesus, our Substitute, the One who obeyed for your (and my) benefit. Because Grace Drives Christian Living.
That is the reason Moses says what he does. He is not challenging the Israelites to be ‘real’ Christians. No, he points back to God’s undeserving love. See God hand you the forgiveness not deserved. See how he chose you first (John 15:16), meaning, faith does not depend on your behavior. God cannot love you more than he already does!
So, what do you do? Nothing! There is nothing you need to do to make God love you more. Maybe question instead is: How, then, do I gives thanks?
To that, Moses says: Fear the Lord your God and serve him. (Now, that word ‘fear’ does not mean ‘be afraid, be terrified, be scared of God.’ No. To ‘fear’ means ‘to respect.’ Give God respect, treat him with dignity, honor, and trust.) How do you treat with respect? Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. Live unafraid because you can. Jesus promises, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me… And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:18,20). Live unafraid because God invites you to approach him in need. Call on me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you, and you will honor me (Psalm 50:15). He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Gather in worship, thank God for his love. Gather in worship, take in hearing of God’s love—and delight in that. See the baptismal font where he made you his child (Galatians 3:26-27). Approach the altar and take his forgiveness (Matthew 26:26-28). Leave here at peace with God. He will not condemn you. He will not forsake you. He will clothe you (Matthew 6:24-35). He will give strength in sickness (Psalm 103:1-3). He will turn troubles into blessings, he will increase your trust in him through challenges (Romans 8:28). What do you do? Nothing. You (and I) owe God nothing! What joy to simply look up at a God who loves us. What a privilege to have that love sink in and Motivate Christian Living!
Forget the past and you will not value the present. That’s why Todd felt entitled. He failed to appreciate his parent’s that hard work. Because he does not value their achievement, he feels automatically worthy of deserving good things. That led him to be ungrateful of what he received. That is why God repeats the past. Deuteronomy repeats much of what is found in Exodus. Here’s the reason why: God’s love is scorned if you do not understand why he loves you in the first place. So, go back. See your heart’s dire condition. See God’s undeserving affection. Then you clearly grasp how Grace Drives the Christian Life.
The same four words appear on every single American coin and every single American dollar. Four words that reveal a conviction. Four words that confess a truth. Four words that identify a belief. Do you know those four words? ‘In God We Trust.’
That motto first appeared in 1863, right in the thick of the American Civil War. Half of America faced extinction! Ideas and people could be lost! So, a concerned American requested the phrase: ‘In God We Trust’ be stamped onto American coins. Should civilization crumble and return to sand and timber, archaeologists and historians could find these coins. They could read the inscription and conclude that America was not full of godless heathens (https://www.treasury.gov/about/education/Pages/in-god-we-trust.aspx). That motto made headlines again in 1957, just as the Cold War got colder. The Soviet Union outlawed religion and promoted atheism [a belief that no God exists]. So, the motto ‘In God We Trust’ appeared on dollar bills. It implied that God favored American morals and would lend his divine support. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_God_We_Trust). That phrase: ‘In God We Trust’ clearly confesses that only God can grant real security.
So, how ironic that a confession of God’s protection is found on an object in which many want to find protection! Ponder that for just a moment. Money is capable of bringing pleasure into your life. It is. It can buy vacations and cars, houses and outdoor toys, clothes and shoes. Money provides for you. Still, stamped on American money is the confession: ‘In God We Trust.’ Only God grants real security. So which one is it? Which one do you expect to provide for you? God or Money? In Whom Do You Trust?
Calamity has a way of exposing the heart’s security. You have an object of trust. When troubles rage, you flee rely on it. In that moment you then determine if that object could keep you safe or not.
Just look at our reading. Calamity barrels towards the leaders in Zion (that’s southern Israel) and against those on Mount Samaria (which is northern Israel). God guarantees punishment. Northern Israel chiseled out figures in stone; they have carved wooden statues. Israelites leave their homes and trot out to a shrine filled with prostitutes. They hope sharing bodies will make for a good financial year. Farmers trust the cow-god Baal, relying on him to make a good growing season. Masses flock to deities that do not exist, shamefully shatter God’s commands— and the leaders do not care. Governors do not shut down these pagan temples. They do not elevate worship of the true God who rescued them from Egypt and gifted this land to them! So, God guarantees: You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god— which you made for yourselves. Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus (Amos 5:26-27).
Go to Calneh and look at it; go from there to great Hamath, and then go down to Gath in Philistia. Each city once stood equal to northern and southern Israel. They had the same amount of land, the same level of safety, the same economies. Now, it’s all gone! Tiny Calneh destroyed by superpower Assyria! Hamath conquered by northern Israel and Gath held captive by Zion! God warns: Are they better off than your two kingdoms? Is their land larger than yours? No! ‘What happened to them will happen to you! You will be destroyed.’
That warning meant to alert sleepy hearts. ‘Wake up!’ Instead, Israel’s leaders lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on couches. [They] dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. [They] strum away on harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. [They] drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, [no one] grieves over the ruin of Joseph. No one cares about the threat of exile because… well… nothing bad has happened. No armies threaten their borders, and therefore no fear of captivity. Economies flourish; money passes through hands, and therefore no worry of food shortages or home foreclosures. Peace reigns in the region, and therefore no concern that you could lose a familiar landscape or friends or freedom. So, hearts wallow in every pleasure money offers. Getting drunk makes this negatives news of destruction go away. Money spent on choice meat could still be used to hire more armies and better defenses. Little musical fantasies drown out God’s warning. In Whom Do They Trust? They love what pleasure money can purchase. They love how money can make them feel safe. They trust money’s ability to provide everything needed for life.
God has this to say: You put off the evil day and [you] bring near a reign of terror. ‘You worship temporal pleasures and let your spiritual life rot.’ Money can bring satisfaction to every area of life except one. Money cannot save your soul.
Calamity erupted just like God promised. The Assyrian powerhouse that steamrolled Calneh obliterated northern Israel. Governors turned to wealth. They thought it could buy weapons. They thought it could buy armies. They thought it could buy peace. It did not. Even worse, those who placed trust in wealth over God died spiritually bankrupt. Money could not buy their way into heaven.
What a reminder, then, those four words on money serve for us! ‘In God We Trust.’ Do you still pay attention to those words? Do you remember they are even there? Maybe we only care when some group wants to erase it! Yet, the heart does a fine job of erasing it on its own! Do you think that a new house will solve a sore relationship? Or that new a car will finally satisfy you and you will never anything else again? Perhaps you think more income will finally take away every fear— no more restless nights, no more stress about bills, or no more counting every cent you spend. Maybe you find security in a large savings account— relying on this cushion to make you feel happy and secure. Maybe that’s why we can easily forget those four words found on money: ‘In God We Trust.’ We can look at the green paper and shiny coin and think this object will give us the happiness we crave. This object will solve any tension, any struggle, any aching worry. This object will save me.
If that is where your trust lies, then God has this to say: ‘Woe to you!’ You will leave this earthly life and your wealth will not come with you. You will stand before God naked and penniless. If money remains an object of trust, then Calamity (we could say ‘death’) exposes the heart’s security. It exposes money’s inability to provide real peace.
God makes that point pretty clear on a mount called ‘Calvary.’ There, Jesus hangs naked and penniless. Attached to him is your (and my) trust in everything money could buy. He hates the sight of it so much that he rains down punishment on Jesus. The punishment meant for you (and me).
Calamity exposes the heart’s security— and when you look at the heart of Jesus, you do not find reliance in wealth. You find a pure trust in God to provide! He does! God provides Jesus with life! God provides you (and me) with Jesus’ life! That you now carry Jesus’ innocence. Something money can never buy! Something that allows you to stand before God, completely confident that he cares for you. That he provides for you. That he opens heaven for you.
In Whom Do You Trust? Calamity exposes the heart’s security. When troubles rip into life, you will turn to an object. Money might address physical shortfalls, but it will never satisfy you completely. Only Jesus fills you with real peace. The real peace of forgiveness. The real peace that comes from knowing that God still provides all things in this life. ‘In God We Trust.’ That becomes apparent by the way we use money.
Believers in the Old Testament had an opportunity to give a ‘firstfruits’ offering. They set aside about 10-percent of the crops coming off field first and gave that to God. Now, if you farm, you realize that giving your first crops can be a little nerve-wracking. After all, the previous year’s reserves run low. You could use that corn and hay. Still, God says, “Give me your firstfruits” (Deuteronomy 26:1-15).
People did. They willingly give that offering; you give the first of your resources confident that God will give you more cuttings of hay and more corn. Giving demonstrate a trust in God to provide. A trust that drowned out personal fear. Actions reveal a trust in God’s promise.
What do your actions say? You (and I) are able to evaluate our income and consider what we may set aside. Maybe that means we set aside an amount for offering before we pay bills. You set a portion and then spend what is left over. Maybe that means we determine key bills first and then set aside an offering. If we do not have enough to be at McDonald’s every day, we thank God for still feeding us. Or, if we cannot buy five new outfits this month, we thank God for still clothing us. Setting aside a portion of income for an offering allows us to rely on God to keep providing for us.
We can look at the money in our hand and see those words ‘In God We Trust,’ we can use it confidently. If you’re not sure, then for one month (that’s four Sundays), see what you are able to give. Be bold. Trust big. You offering may increase price of a hamburger spread out over four weeks. That amount might not look like much, but it is much. It comes from heart that trusts God to provide. Maybe your giving increases by the cost of a tank of gas each week. Even that generosity demonstrates a reliance on God. You are not worried that you will need that amount back later. Our act of giving reveals our certainty in God to do what he promises; that he will give what we need.
That phrase: ‘In God We Trust’ clearly confesses that only God can grant real security. So, how ironic that a confession of God’s protection is found on an object in which many want to find protection! Ponder that for just a moment. Money is capable of bringing pleasure into your life. It can buy vacations and cars, houses and outdoor toys, clothes and shoes. Money provides for you. Still, stamped on American money is the confession: ‘In God We Trust.’ Only God grants real security. Which one is it? Which one do you expect to provide for you? God or Money? In Whom Do You Trust?
His little head rises higher and higher. Soon, his hazel eyes stand level with the glowing burner radiating heat. Ever-so-slowly that tiny hand creeps toward that red ring… “Don’t touch!” warns mom. He freezes— and his mind instantly begins dissecting that warning. The orange glow does not appear harmful— after all, the heat feels like summer heat and orange is a pretty color. The circle element kind of looks like a toy-ring. He weighs mom’s warning against his observations and reaches a conclusion: Mom is wrong! Disregard the warning! So, those tiny fingers continue their journey closer and closer to the glowing element. The fingers descend on their goal, and… INSTANTLY pain shoots up his fingers, through his hand, and down his arm. Fingertips turn fleshy red. His hand burns. Tears stream down his face. This young child did not expect the searing results he received.
We have a word for a person who acts like that: a ‘know-it-all,’ someone who behaves as if he knows everything (https://www.merriam-webster.com/thesaurus/know%20it%20all). That behavior not only affects little children (and your bossy siblings), it can infiltrate your heart too. Thinking that you already know every Bible teaching and application, warning and encouragement, promise and guarantee leads you to think that God has nothing left to teach you.
A ‘know-it-all’ doesn’t describe you, does it?
This morning, Ponder Wisdom’s Two Questions. (1) What is wisdom? And, (2) Are you wise?
Maybe you find it difficult to define ‘wisdom.’ If you are like me, it’s easier to describe ‘wisdom’ not with a definition, but with an application. You identify ‘wisdom’ when you see it. Perhaps you consider ‘wisdom’ as avoiding harmful choices and selecting beneficial choices. Maybe you equate ‘wisdom’ with experience. You perform some action and gain results. Then you evaluate the results in order to shape future decisions. You realize that we tend to define wisdom as this cause-and-effect notion.
Yet, in Proverbs 9:10, God does not leave us fumbling for a concrete definition of wisdom. Instead, he explains (1) what wisdom is and (2) how wisdom functions. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. So, God links two items together. (1) ‘Fear’ and ‘Wisdom,’ (2) ‘Knowledge of Holy One’ and ‘Understanding.’ Have fear, you have wisdom.
That’s where wisdom begins? With ‘fear?’ That sounds strange. I mean, in our English language, if you “fear” someone that usually means you are scared of that person. So, being “scared” of the Lord is how you become wise? In a way, yes! He is the Almighty God who stretched a measuring line across our universe, who shut the sea behind doors, clothed the skies with clouds, and brings out the sun every morning (Job 38). Your God is the Holy One who lives in heaven, far above all rule and authority, a place reserved only for the perfect! That is scary, that is terrifying because I am not God and God is not me. I fail people; I deliberately choose to do evil. God never fails people; God never does evil (James 1:13). I do not compare to him. In fact, I fall short.
That takes ‘fear’ to admit that. Yes, to be afraid that you (and I) fall under God’s punishment for failure. Yet, ‘fear’ also means something else; it means, ‘to respect.’ It takes ‘fear’ (or ‘respect’) to admit that God judges over me and I stand judged by God.
So, that wisdom places me at a starting point. Real wisdom recognizes two truths: (1) It recognizes the deadly consequences of sin and (2) sees Jesus as the antidote to those consequences. The fear of the Lord… that is, respecting God’s position over me… is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
That ‘Holy One’ is none other than Jesus Christ. Just look at him! He is holy! Morally faultless! The sick crowd around him and he does not prescribe treatments for a better life on earth. No! He points people to a healing for their soul. When he preaches, he points to the Bible—and not what he thinks. Even though he has no savings account, no permanent home, no bed, Jesus still confidently relies on God to provide. Jesus ‘fears’ the Lord; he ‘respects’ God’s impact in his life and proves it by shaping his entire being around God’s commands.
You know that; you know Jesus is the Holy One. You also know just what God thinks about human wisdom: He hates it. The Holy One hangs on the cross, groaning under God’s righteous frown. God finds your (and my) ‘know-it-all’ attitude on Jesus and cannot stand to look at it. So, he turns his back and leaves. He does not rescue Jesus. He answers no cry for help. He forsakes his Son and our worldly wisdom with him—and then he buries it. He buries our wisdom with his Son in the ground. Three days later Jesus comes out of the ground. He comes out without our wisdom and with his message of wisdom: ‘Cleansed! Purified! Pardoned!’
So, What is wisdom? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Quite simply: (1) You recognize the deadly consequences of sin and (2) trust Jesus as the only antidote to those consequences.
That leads to our second question: (2) Are you wise? Wisdom is not a mere definition, but also application. Think back to that little child. He holds a warning about the hot stovetop, but did not put it into practice. Holding God’s Word in high regard brings eternal life. Still, those are not lifeless words. For you, the Christian, those words are put into action. So, Are you wise?
Do you apply wisdom? Verse 8 says: Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you… A mocker is a proud person, a ‘know-it-all.’ He thinks he knows everything there is to know about everything. The worst trait about that attitude is that he refuses to take God’s truth to heart. He refuses to admit that his lifestyle clearly contradicts God’s clear commands. He refuses to admit that his life needs changing. Really, he is pushing God out of his heart—which is foolish because only God brings life. [R]ebuke a wise man— someone who humbly admits that God and his Word carries authority over him-- and he will love you. So the question is: Are you wise?
Today marks the beginning of our Christian education year. Think about many opportunities to grow in God’s Word. Sunday School teaches Bible accounts of God’s love. Catechism class studies God’s teachings for life. Bible class examines life’s questions under the microscope of God’s Word. An online class puts a book of the Bible into simple words and simple application. God presents teachings to guide decisions and form answers, comfort and console, and most of all, keep your heart close to him.
That is why the devil works on you. He tries to make you into a fool. He will tell you that you are too busy to read your Bible. He will tell you that you already know every Bible story, every Bible topic, every discussion any class will have. He will tell you that you have another day, another time to be in the Word. I know he does that because he tries to convince me of the same things. “You’re a Pastor. You already studied all this.” “You instruct people. You do not need instruction.” “You’re so busy today. Study tomorrow …Start again next week …next anniversary.” Do you know why Satan whispers these excuses? He knows that if he can just get you to put the Bible down, to stop using it so often, you will begin forgetting God’s promises. You will forget God’s commands. You will start creating Bible-sounding sayings. You will begin clinging to made-up statements about the Bible. You will rely on what you think you know— and you will never figure how wrong you are until God exposes how distant you stand from him!
Let’s find wisdom in verse 9. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. Did you catch that? ‘Instructing’ always leaves a positive impact! (read also Isaiah 55:10-11). You will always have room to learn more information, better identify God’s promises, and grow in applying the Word to life. After all, life changes, right? Like, a 4-year-old just wants loving care. The 14-year-old worries about acceptance by friends and classmates. The 24-year-old worries about getting a job and starting “life.” The 40-year-old worries about retirement. The 84-year-old worries about health in later years. Throughout life certain things change. What does not change is the instruction God teaches. A 4-year-old knows the Good Shepherd lovingly cares for him. The 14-year-old knows the Good Shepherd accepts him as a dear friend. The 24-year-old sees the Good Shepherd satisfy fear by providing education and job, spouse and income. The 40-year-old sees the Good Shepherd provide for both life on earth and in heaven. The 84-year-old knows the Good Shepherd will lead her through death’s dark valley and into heaven. Just this one timeless psalm provides a myriad of application for every age!
That is the reason these education opportunities exist. That is why your congregation encourages using these many Bible opportunities. That is why your Pastor prepares to ‘instruct’ you, the ‘wise man.’ So that you become wiser still.
After all, you are not a ‘know-it-all,’ are you? May God forbid it! Thinking that you already know every Bible teaching and application, warning and encouragement, promise and guarantee leads you to think that God has nothing left to teach you. That does not benefit you. Instead, a ‘know-it-all’ attitude actually stunts your life with God!
Maybe a better phrase to stick in mind is: ‘Don’t be a know-it-all; be a learn-it-all.’ (https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2017/05/dont-be-a-know-it-all-be-a-learn-it-all/). That happens when our hearts remember that real wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. Cherishing the fact that only Jesus stands us right before God! That, dear friends, changes life. That dismantles excuses. What joy we have to keep pondering the wisdom we have received from God! Jesus cures us from death. That Word continues guiding life.
I am always struck by that one little sentence that comes out of Jesus’ mouth: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop (Luke 12:16). We can easily pass over those words. After all, the spotlight really shines on a farmer, right? A rich farmer. He harvests lush fields, stuffs hay into mammoth barns, and packs silos with corn, oats, and beans. He can withdraw from storage anytime he needs money. He lacks nothing— and never will again. Nothing! …except you know how the account ends. God stoops down, looks this misguided farmer in the eye. ‘You fool!’ The farmer, a fool! Why? Because of that easily overlooked sentence: The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop.
Do you grasp the significance of those words? The farmer did not crack open the seed. He did not pull out roots and pour water into each tiny root hair. He did not stretch out stalks and leaves. He did not push out cobs and pods. The farmer did absolutely nothing! The ground did everything! The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop— and arrogance thinks he controls the future of his life. That he holds in his brain and barns all he needs for life happily ever after! What. a. fool. All the wealth in his barns cannot keep secure earthly life and it certainly cannot open eternal life! How foolish to latch onto earthly things!
Still it happens. Money, power, status, pleasure exist. Their existence in this world grab at you (and me), threatening to make us fools. You (and I) live in this world, but remember this: you are not of this world. Your goals, your attitude is different. You Have Been Raised in Christ. Put to death the sinful nature and Set your mind on things above.
That might be difficult. On the one hand, you have a unique identity; you stand on God’s side. Remember what God said to you last week? [You have] been buried with [Christ] in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God… (Colossians 2:12). That means your baptism did something; it connected you to Christ Jesus. [A]ll of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27). Picture it: God has put Jesus on you— the innocence, the blamelessness, the perfection. So, right here, right now, this moment you are spiritually clean, spotless, unstained—even while alive in this world.
That’s where the difficulty creeps in. Not everyone loves God. We have friends that do not go to church, friends that deny God’s existence, friends that mock Christianity. Co-workers cuss, spew out filthy jokes, and brag about last night’s conquests. Your family may never apologize for hurting you and they may deliberately act like the past never happened. You (and I) live among people who dislike putting God’s expectations into practice. Then there’s the life you (and I) live in this world. You (and I) need a certain amount of money for food, housing, health, vehicle, maintenance. You (and I) really enjoy trips away, activities in the woods and on the lakes. You, like me, probably crave security and comfort. You (and I) must use worldly items in order to stay alive.
That’s fine! God does not command you to avoid all non-Christian people and things and form Christian-only communities in some desolate wasteland. No, God has placed you into this world with the intention that you live in this world. What God does command is this: Put to death therefore what is earthly in you… There’s that word again: ‘earthly.’ Everything the world praises and God condemns. [S]exual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Is that what you do? Do you [p]ut to death what is earthly? Does your body belong to your spouse alone? [Grand]Parents, do you teach your [grand]children that sex is meant for marriage? Do you flee fantasies by changing channels or leaving that website? Even more, do you remind one another how to properly discuss the opposite sex? Do you work towards contentment in your marriage— not wishing that you were with ‘Joe Perfect’ or ‘Nancy Wonderful’? Experienced spouses— do you help strengthen bonds of troubled marriages? Do you remind others that the world’s view of ‘living together’ is not God’s view? Yes, God zeroes in on sexual temptations, but he does not suggest this group contains the worst sins imaginable. Instead, he takes these common temptations and lumps them into a broader category: idolatry. ‘Idolatry’: ‘Worshipping something not God.’ When our views of relationships conform to our standards instead of God’s, then we have fallen into idolatry. We are following our decisions. then who are we following? We are treating ourselves with greater respect. We lay aside God’s Word and worship our word.
That is a serious matter. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. Understand, God’s wrath is not coming against those we consider ‘bad’ or we think deserve it. God’s wrath, his damnation to hell, targets all those who trash these words in sheer rejection. That leaves one final searching question: Has this world rubbed off on you?
In these you (and I) too once walked. Yes. ‘Once.’ Maybe you still shiver at high school regrets. Maybe you cannot stop replaying foolish nights. Or, maybe you find yourself still struggling with those temptations and sins— but that’s the key: you struggle. Your attitude once delighted wallowing in moral filth, but now you have changed.
At your baptism, God drowned the sinful nature; he took those immoral desires, filled its lungs with water, stripped away its life, killed it, murdered it. He pulled you up out of the water and left the sinful nature floating behind. God raised you up morally pure, spiritually clean, past erased. You Have Been Raised in Christ.
Since you stand on the side of Christ, you live in ways that characterize someone living on the side of Christ. (1) You put to death the sinful nature. You dread living in ways God hates. You strive to do what is right because that is who you are: A person of the light. You Have Been Raised in Christ (2) So, set your mind on things above.
If then you have been raised with Christ (¥ that describes you!) seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Literally: set your mind on heaven. Look at the place above. Consider the place you enter after earth. Remember that perfect, tear-free, pain-free place as your final goal. Set your mind on things above because this is the place that is real. Think about that: The world which we see is not truly ‘real.’ Yes, we have tangible items, real emotions, and we are bound by time. Still, this world ends when time ends. We either leave behind all our valuables, possessions, status, and goals in death, or they leave us in decay, or they leave us when Christ returns. All those things end— but you (and I) enter eternity—something that has been and always will be there.
The things of heaven are ‘real.’ Christ ascended and remains at God’s right hand. He stands on the other side of eternity where we will one day enter. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. That picture feels unreal. When you see Jesus you will clearly see yourself as God has dressed you. Innocent. Faultless. Pure. No more struggling with temptation. No more hurting loved ones and being hurt by loved ones. No more shameful regrets haunting you; no more actions that you will regret. You will stand in glory with Christ. You can set your mind on heaven above.
Yet, you can do that now. You already live as God’s pure child. Remember, baptism whisked you into God’s believing group— maybe as an infant, in your childhood, or as an adult. You behavior on God’s side is this: Put aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Does that describe you? It does not describe me. Still, I remain a child of God. We go back to the baptismal waters and there see a reflection of who we truly are. Forgiven. Still standing on the side of Christ. Renewed in our desire to live on the side of Christ.
Christ has stripped off of you (and me) acts of jealousy, bitterness, resentment, and rage. He never brings it up again. Because of that incredible love, we are motivated to strip off jealousy, bitterness, resentment, and rage. No, not for Christ to love us more. Rather, because he already loved us and put on us a new self, created to be like him. You Have Been Raised in Christ. So, set your mind on things above.
Unlike that farmer. He harvests lush fields, stuffs hay into mammoth barns, and packs silos with corn, oats, and beans. He can withdraw from storage anytime he needs money. He lacks nothing— and never will again. Nothing! And that’s great! …except that his heart latches onto earthly things. All the wealth in his barns cannot keep secure earthly life and it certainly cannot open eternal life!
Neither can the things of this world. The money, power, and status amounts to nothing eternally. They are blessings enjoyed now. Worldly objectives of pleasure and rebellious freedom and self-reliance do not bring you (and me) closer to God. They drive us away.
You (and I) live in this world, but remember this: you are not of this world. We enjoy the items and people in this world, but we do not cherish them over the Word of our God. Set apart as people who are different, we put to death the sinful nature, continue keeping items as they are. Since You Have Been Raised in Christ, set your mind on things above. For that is life’s real goal.
Every Memorial Day weekend, I drive out to Elm Creek, buy seedlings, and plant my garden. And every year the garden thrives. Vines stretch out. Plants grow thick and lush. I collect half-a-dozen cucumbers each day and pick cherry tomatoes and beans by the bucket full. This year was not like every other year.
A few days after putting the seedlings into the ground, the leaves turned yellow— like Post-It-Note yellow. But, the plants did not wilt; they did not shrivel up or die, they just stayed yellow— which was also strange. These yellow seedlings never grew; they never pushed out new branches and vines and leaves. For three weeks, I saw small rows of miniature yellow tomato, cucumber, and bean plants.
Now, usually yellow leaves signal something wrong with growing conditions. The soil could be too acidic. The plants may not be receiving enough sunlight. Overwatering and severed roots can stunt plant growth. If you boil all the symptoms down, the causes for poor growth come from poor soil. Plants need good soil to live, grow, and produce fruit.
For you to grow, thrive, and flourish in Christian living, you need good soil. You need a reliable source of comfort when feeling crushed. You need clear answers when confused. You need ever-constant strength when feeling exhausted. Where are you looking for direction?
Better yet, does your source produce good results? Drink deeply from this truth: Gospel-Fed Hearts Grow. God has transplanted you into light. His Word grows knowledge. His Word produces fruitful living.
The congregation in Colossae needed this reminder. (Now, Colossae sits in the southwest corner of present-day Turkey. So, picture Phoenix lying a little bit off the southwest American border.) An evangelist named ‘Epaphras’ preached and the Holy Spirit planted faith in each listener.
Yet, this young congregation gets sick very quickly. They feed on a strange mixture of Jewish and Pagan teachings. Jewish— like: forbidding the eating of certain meats, making Old Testament religious ceremonies mandatory, and creating rules in order to win God’s favor. Then pagan— like: worshipping angels (who are God’s servants [Hebrews 1:14; Revelation 19:10]) and creating strange ideas of who God is, what he does, and how he lives. Those false beliefs poison souls. It seizes attention away from the clear answers God wrote down in the Bible and sets personal beliefs on human opinion.
Epaphras and Paul see stunted, shriveling faith, and grow terribly concerned. So, they start right at the roots. After all, when my plants turned yellow, I did not treat the leaves; I started with what caused the leaves to turn yellow. I started with the soil. In the same way, when we drink in guidance for life, we need to make sure that this guidance comes from a healthy source. We want to remain spiritually healthy. Verses 13-14 say: [God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. We all entered this world rooted in this stinking soil, this domain of darkness. We were not just yellowed sick, we were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). That is how we started life. Enemies of God (Romans 8:7). Not going to heaven (Isaiah 53:5). Unable to do anything to change that dreadful status.
Yet, God did something: he ‘transferred us.’ With the pure life of Jesus in hand, he scooped you out of hell. He washed away the moral filth that soaks our minds. He clipped away our shameful regrets. He healed us from the disease called ‘sin’— a disease that would kill us. He transferred us into his kingdom. We have been moved from the column: ‘Enemy to be destroyed by God’ to ‘Child Loved by God.’
God’s Word, the Bible, tells you this comforting truth. That is the ‘gospel,’ the ‘good-news’ that Jesus rescued you. That ‘good news’ enters your heart individually. Because the Word of God has the power to change hearts (Romans 1:16). That Word, which was spoken at your baptism, has transplanted you into light.
Paul takes us right to the soil. He reminds you that (1) God has bought you and (2) transplanted you so that you may draw strength from God and his Word. When it comes to guidance and strength for life, look down and see where you stand planted. God has transplanted you into light. Rooted in good soil comes good growth.
My plants— well, the leaves remained yellow for several weeks. So, I treated the soil. I carefully dug up each seedling, filled the hole with black dirt, mixed in a little lime, and replanted each plant. A few days later those little plants began improving. Leaves changed from yellow to green and new growth appeared. When you have good soil, you have good growth.
You (and I), planted into faith, grow. Paul continues in verse 9: [We] ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding… So, you, as a Christian, are planted in Christ, but you do not remain stagnant. You grow spiritually. You grow by learning God’s ‘will’— and that ‘will’ (God’s desires) are only found in the Bible. This is why your congregation presents and emphasizes opportunities to be in God’s Word. To be in Bible Class. To be in Sunday School. To be in Catechism class. To have personal, daily devotions. These are all opportunities to see God’s demands, hear God’s forgiveness, memorize promises of rescue, and find God-pleasing answers.
Maybe right now, your mind is already fabricating excuses as to why you just cannot possibly be in the Word like that. I mean, we still battle a sinful nature. A sinful nature that thinks it can handle every problem in life. A sinful nature that does not want to rely on the Bible verses memorized in Sunday School and in Catechism class. A sinful nature that defends its ungodly decisions. A sinful nature that only seeks its own interests. We may create every excuse as to why it’s impossible to grow in our knowledge of God, but we only hurt ourselves. The devil loves the excuses you (and I) make because they separate us God’s Word— the only weapon we have against temptation. The further we stay from the Word, the further we can drift from God!
That is why Paul prays: [We] ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of [God’s] will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding… The more you read your Bible, the more you learn— and not just that, but the more you remember about who God is and what God does. The information gained from the Bible allows you to apply it to the many different situations of life.
This is where you find guidance. You know: Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved (Mark 16:16). Apply that truth when frightened about death. Can you really know that you will be in heaven? Yes. Because God used baptism to save you (1 Peter 3:21). You know that God is with you to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). Apply that truth when at a loss for answers. You do not know the future. You might worry the future will be bad, not pleasant. Yet, God has heaven in store for you. God uses even unpleasant things to increase your reliance on him.
You also use your knowledge to determine what is false and what is true. Someone might tell you: God will not give you more than you can bear. You would know that this is not entirely accurate. The Bible says: God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear and that when pressed down, his Word gives you strength not to fall into sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). A friend might say: I don’t need to be in a church to be a Christian. While that sounds a little true, you also know the Bible says: Let us not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). The more you spend in your Bible, the more you know. The more you know, the more you apply. That is how you grow.
A Gospel-Fed Heart Grows. God has transplanted you into light; he provides good soil. As a follower of Christ, you will grow in Christian living; His Word grows knowledge.
Right now my garden is growing. The soil is balanced. Plants draw nutrients from that soil. Yet, something else happens: those plants produce fruit— good, beneficial, pleasing fruit.
Paul points to the fruits that come from putting God’s Word into practice. Verses 3-5 say: We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. God loves the Colossians. He loves them so much that he still keeps the Word in their life. He uses the Word to correct their false beliefs. He does not hold their wrongs against them, but he cleanses them. He keeps them planted in this soil of faith. He keeps feeding them with his Word. That love has an effect: loved much, they love much.
Paul notes that in verses 5-6: Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing— as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth… The Word produces ‘fruits of faith.’ ‘Fruits of faith’ are the results that come from putting God’s Word into practice.
See what fruits it produces in you. God encourages us: Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said: ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ (Hebrews 13:5). We see that God has given house and home, possessions and vehicles, money saved and money spent— and does this all without our constant asking. The Word sinks in; the fruit of contentment grows.
God teaches: If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:8). If we come through surgery, we thank God for another day. If we do not make it through surgery, we thank God for heaven. We will not leave this life a day sooner or a day later than God already knows. So, the Word sinks in; the fruit of trust grows.
God instructs: Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:22, 25). Husbands put the needs of your wife ahead of your own, just like Christ put your life ahead of his and died for you. Wives, listen to your husbands, just like you know God loves you and wants only the best. The Word sinks in; the fruit of stronger relationships grow.
Gospel-Fed Hearts Grow. God’s Word does something; God’s Word produces fruitful living.
For you to grow, thrive, and flourish in Christian living, you need good soil. You need a reliable source of comfort when feeling crushed. You need clear answers when confused. You need ever-constant strength when feeling exhausted. Where are you looking for direction? Drink deeply from this truth: Gospel-Fed Hearts Grow. Turn here. God has transplanted you into light. His Word grows knowledge. His Word produces fruitful living.
Let’s start with some questions this morning. Keep the answers in your head and keep score on your fingers. Okay? Alright, here we go:
How did you do? Get them all right? You should have. Those are questions for third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders. I mean, 10-year-olds can answer those questions. You already learned those answers in fifth grade! Aren’t you smarter than a fifth grader?
That exercise proves that what was once learned can be forgotten over time. You may give wrong answers instead of the right answers. You can create some very incorrect answers. You forget what was learned. Knowledge must be renewed and reinforced.
During this past education year, you have had many opportunities to increase your knowledge, understanding, and application of God’s Word. Now, Retain What You Have Gained! Sell the excuses. Buy the truth.
Sunday School, you gained new knowledge and added to ‘old’ knowledge. Remember Adam and Eve? The first two people in the world. They play all the time, never fall down and scrape a knee, never get into trouble. Then, they ate fruit God told them not to eat. You might go in timeout when you do something wrong. God did not put Adam and Eve in timeout, but said they could no longer live in the Garden of Eden. From there, people do not get nicer, they get meaner. It hurts God. So, he covers earth with a flood. Noah builds an ark, brings two of every kind of animal inside, and floats safe. After the flood goes away, Noah had a big family. Some people in his family are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Abraham (for example) was Jesus’ [52-times ‘great-] grandpa (Matthew 1:17). Remember what things Jesus did? He heals sick people. He stops a bad thunderstorm. He dies on the cross for our sins. God wants Pastors like [missionary] Paul (or myself) to tell you this good news. In Sunday School, you learned ‘new’ things about God; you remembered stories learned last year.
Adults, you may remember these Bible lessons from your Sunday School days. Each year you added ‘new’ knowledge. Sometimes you added ‘new’ information to existing knowledge. You gained knowledge.
You gained even more knowledge in catechism class. As a teenager, young adult, or a little older, you opened your Bibles and learned God’s teachings. You explored three ways God the Father cares for you. You pondered why Jesus had to be both true man and true God at the same time. You learned what the ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’ keys are, when they are used, and who uses them. Catechism class has a purpose. You explore God’s great love for you and how he keeps you in faith. You can explain what you believe. You can defend your faith. You gained knowledge.
Now what? Well, standing at the end of another year of Bible classes, Retain What You Have Gained! That’s what our Proverb says: Buy the truth and do not sell it… Continue adding new Bible accounts to life; continue connecting Bible teachings to life’s many situations. Because if you do not gain truth, you will sell it. Sell— like ‘reducing inventory,’ ‘subtracting possessions.’ You can sell what you have learned; you can let Bible stories fade or minds subtract from Scripture’s true teachings.
Maybe you sit here, arms folded, chest puffed, scoffing: “Ah! That will never happen to me! I know so much about the Bible! I can never possibly lose my great knowledge!” If so, then congratulations! You are a stronger Christian than Peter, who denied Jesus (Luke 22:54-62). You are a more faithful disciple than the Twelve, who abandoned Jesus in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:56). You are better than Jesus Christ— because we know that even Jesus worshipped each week (Luke 4:16). You are so advanced in your Christian life that you do not even need this proverb: ‘Buy the truth and do not sell it’! (That is sarcasm.)
That sarcasm is meant for some honest reflection. In my short ministry, I have encountered two types of students: (1) those who listen and (2) those who talk. (1) Listeners realize they still have much to learn. They might be lifelong Christians, but they still pay attention in worship and see how Christ intersects in life. They desire to drink in more knowledge and find even more answers to life’s questions. They may have read the Bible several times through, but still pay attention in Bible Class, cling to every word, and take it to heart. (2) Yet, talkers think they know everything about Christianity! Catechism students brag that they can recite all the books of the Bible, as if this is really what Jesus came to teach us. Some are more interested in telling me what they think Baptism and the Lord’s Suppers means, instead of letting God, in his Word, teach them. Even fellow believers refuse to read devotions, read a Bible chapter, attend Bible Class simply because they think they know every point of Scripture. Talkers sell the truth; they create a myriad of excuses to keep the Bible shut.
I have also learned that the use of God’s Word reveals its priority in our hearts. If we love God with all our heart, mind, and soul (Matthew 22:37), then nothing would keep us out of worship, out of a devotion-life, or away from studying the Bible in Class, Catechism, or Sunday School. Yet, excuses abound:“I have fair season, I have ballgames, I have reunions, I have vacation. I am too busy… too tired… too focused on the kids. I have no time.” That is another way of selling the truth; excuses literally reduce your time with God’s Word.
Satan stokes pride and misplaced priorities in order to reduce our time with the Word. The less we use the Bible, the less we strengthen faith. The less we strengthen faith, the less Bible teachings we get right. The less Bible teachings we get right, the less we see a need for Jesus. Eventually faith shrivels up, Jesus is reduced to a good person, and my confidence for heaven is set in my moral behavior. If I sell the truth, I will sell my Jesus.
Dear friends, there are sections of Scripture where one simple sentence leaves an eternally profound impact. This is one of those places. Retain What You Have Gained! Sell the excuses. Buy the truth.
Buy—like ‘hold to what you have,’ ‘acquire new knowledge,’ ‘add new insights to what already exists.’ Buy the truth.
Here’s the truth: God is not content with our excuses. God does not ignore a proud know-it-all attitude. God will not tolerate our critiques of his teaching. God does not buy our excuses of busy-ness. God demands a heart that holds him always as the foremost priority— and he finds that heart in Jesus.
Here’s the truth: God loads our proud, detestable excuses on Jesus and hangs his Son on the cross. There, God rips off each excuse one-by-one. He throws away the know-it-all attitude. He destroys the critiquing of his teaching. He rejects excuses. God sells Jesus to death— yes, death, punishment, suffering for our proud excuses. Jesus’ pure life is more than enough to buy this splendid truth: ‘Forgiven. Restored. Redeemed.’
That, dear friends, is a truth that never grows old. In fact, that is truth you can keep buying forever and you will never reach a point where it becomes ‘old’ or ‘unneeded.’ You have gained: you have gained faith— a trust in Jesus as Savior. You have gained eternal life. You have gained peace and comfort and happiness. You already hold this. So, Retain What You Have Gained! Keep holding to your gift. Keep it in your heart, in your mind, in your life. How?
Buy the truth… get wisdom. True wisdom acknowledges the poisonous devastation sin wreaks on the world and sees Christ as the antidote. Yes, you already believe this. So, build on it. (1) Hold to what you have, (2) acquire new knowledge, (3) add new insights to what already exists. You will see forgiveness continually drown high school regrets. You will see the Jesus who calms wind and waves still control Oklahoma tornadoes. In a constantly-changing world, you find a never-changing Jesus. Yes, sin saturates this world, but faith sees Christ as the antidote. Keep the Word central in life and gain wisdom.
Buy the truth… get discipline. Remain in God’s Word and you will grow. Discipline corrects bad behavior and strengthens good behavior. The purpose behind discipline is to save life. So, someone might ‘discipline’ you. A parent tells a still-maturing child, ‘I know you want to stay home Sunday, but that will not help you. For your eternal good, we will worship today.’ A child might ask her mother, ‘Why are we not at worship?’ or ‘Why do we not attend Bible class?’ Those words steers the heart to Godly behavior.
Sometimes you may ‘discipline’ you. You may force your hand to turn off the television for just a few minutes so that you can concentrate on a devotion. You may shake off a nap so that you make it to Bible class. You may find new ways to remember one key point from the sermon each day during the week. You may tell the coach: “We’ll be a few minutes late. We have church.” You may tell mom: “We’ll be at dinner after worship.” On vacation, you might be far from a Wisconsin Synod congregation, but you can still pack Meditations [Devotions]. Discipline corrects bad behavior and strengthens good behavior.
That discipline does something for you: You add to what is already there. As God’s Word remains central in life, excuses to push it aside decrease. More than that, your heart and mind will delight in hearing God’s great love for you.
Buy the truth… get understanding. To ‘understand’ is to apply knowledge to life’s situations. As you remember the three things God the Father still does for you, you will take that knowledge and live confident that he has created all things, still provides for you bodily, and will send his angels to keep you safe. You will see how Jesus is true man to obey for you—every single temptation you faced too—but he is without sin—and as true God, his life covers yours! You know the ‘binding key’ refuses forgiveness and the ‘loosing key’ grant forgiveness. What a delight to know heaven remains open to those who confess wrongs!
Yes, we stand at the end of another Christian Education year. You have explored the Amish way of life. You have studied the parables of Jesus. You have learned about Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and Jesus. You learned the terms ‘Verbal Inspiration’ and ‘Real Presence.’ You have gained much. Do not stop there.
Retain What You Have Gained! You (and I) will constantly encounter the slippery temptation to think there remains nothing left to learn. You (and I) will be tempted to believe things that are not true. You (and I) will be pulled to put our Bibles down. What is the purpose for those temptations? Never, never for your good. Sell the excuses, for excuses have no value. Buy the truth-- a truth that saves. Retain What You Have Gained!