Built on God’s Provision

The Path Less Traveled Final

When we choose to walk the path of holiness rather than the road of mediocrity, we will have all we need to walk that path.

 

“Just keep going. This will all be worth the effort” I was told as I ran through the hills behind my base. I was in the US Marine Corps at the time and I was running with a friend in what was termed “The Hills” behind my base in California. These hills were steep – both going up and going down – and seemingly took forever to run through.

As we ran I was ready to give up. I yelled to Sgt. Ski “I’m done. I’m done.”

Sgt. Ski told me to keep going. “There is a reward at the end of this” he yelled to me. All through our run he ran with me. He didn’t run ahead of me. He didn’t run behind me. He ran with me.

When we finished our run, I was shown my reward: a job well done. It was strangely satisfying. I had ran with Sgt. Ski and followed the directives of my Commanding Officer to continue to train and be in top physical shape. Though running “The Hills” were difficult, it was well worth it. My CO provided the command. Sgt. Ski ran with me, encouraging me  to continue.

In my final article in this series and in Genesis 22, we see how God provided for Abraham. Let’s take a look and discover the way God provides for us as we walk on the path less traveled.

 

Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”                 – Genesis 22:13-14 NASB

The Unexpected Expectation Met

Remember when Abraham and Isaac were trekking up the mountain? Do you remember Issac asking his father where the lamb for the sacrifice was? Issac saw the wood, saw the fire but didn’t see the lamb needed for the sacrifice. Abraham responded that God Himself would provide the lamb.

Understanding what Abraham was thinking – or at least trying to understand – is not productive. Was he thinking that the sacrifice would be his son Isaac? Did Abraham think God would make a substitute available? We simply don’t know because the text doesn’t go any further on Abraham’s comment. And that is a good thing.

What is interesting is that Abraham’s expectation was for a lamb.

 

The Hebrew word usedseh for lamb, seh, means a young sheep, or young lamb. The picture to the right is a very good representation of what Abraham expected God to provide.

 

 

The Hebrew word used for the ram here is the word ayilWhen you see that word think of one of those big-horned sheep. This wasn’t some little thing this was B-I-G BIG!

 

'ayil

Do you see the difference? The size of the sacrifice that Abraham expected and what God delivered could not be more different. God provided much more than Abraham imagined He would.

 

The Expected Sacrifice Made

So Abraham made the sacrifice he expected to make. The only difference was the subject of the sacrifice. Abraham – by all indications – expected to sacrifice his son but perhaps was hoping for a lamb instead, followed God’s instructions to the letter. God had a different idea. God supplied much more than Abraham needed for the sacrifice that God demanded. God was much more generous to Abraham (and Isaac) than either could have imagined. Hmmm.

 

The Expected Provision Remembered

Abraham made the sacrifice.He killed the ram provided by God. He named that place “The Lord will provide.” Remember that God sent Abraham to the mountain of Moriah. We saw that in v. 2. The word Moriah is a Hebrew participle meaning the place of seeing. The idea that we glean from that in this context is where God sees, God provides. So Abraham named that spot as the place where God saw and provided.

Where are you on this path less traveled? Where are you in the pursuit of holiness? Are you at a point of appointed sacrifice?

The lesson we should learn – the one we better learn – is that God’s provision for us as we follow Him on the path less traveled is often times much more than we can imagine. And that is OK. While we should expect God to provide for us as we follow Him, we should not expect that provision will be small.

When we choose to walk the path less traveled. When we choose to walk the path of holiness rather than the road of mediocrity, we will have all we need to walk that path. Often we will have much more.

Our walk on this path of holiness is built on nothing less than God’s provision. Regardless of what form it take, it is from God and we should expect that it will be more than enough for us to finish the task God has called us to complete.

Built on Committment!

The Path Less Traveled Final

 

How do we do with knowing our commitment to God? I know we talk a good game about being committed, but are we really committed?

This  week we will consider only two verses in  Genesis 22. I chose only two verses because of the many important things that occur in these two verses. To appreciate the importance of Genesis 22 as a whole, we must understand the importance of these two small verses. So off we go into the adventure of Genesis 22:11-12.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me. Genesis 22:11-12 NASB

The strong adversative But begins this section. This means there is a contrast to be illustrated in the words following the But. To fully understand the importance of this we must look at what immediately preceded the But here. Remember just prior to this Abraham had journeyed with Isaac, walked up s  mountain, built an altar, and assembled the wood for the sacrifice. He had just bound Isaac and placed him on the wood. And then he took the knife he had and probably placed it to Isaac’s neck. Now think about this for a  moment.

Abraham had not only followed God to the mountain of sacrifice. Not only did Abraham demonstrate his faith by walking with Isaac up the mountain to the place of sacrifice, but so did Isaac when they came to the altar. Isaac, remember, is probably a late teen by this time. He could have resisted at any point and Abraham would have been powerless to stop him.

But Isaac followed his dad and God to the point of death.

That brings us to the But in this week’s passage. And boy it is a big But. Imagine this scene: Isaac is bound and on the altar. Abraham has his knife in hand. Abraham takes the knife, stretches his hand out to place the knife on Isaac’s throat. He is ready to slice Isaac’s throat and burn his body as a sacrifice to the Lord.

Enter God’s But.

But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me. Genesis 22:11-12 NASB

Before Abraham could do harm to Isaac, the angel of the Lord interrupted him. Whether this angel was the pre-incarnate Christ or not is not important. Because the angel most definitely had the authority of the Lord in order to speak the way he did. If this was merely an angel sent to speak to Abraham and not the Lord Himself, that angel carries the full authority of the Lord. So the words here carry the same weight. So what did this angel say?

Do not…

The angel said not to stretch out his (Abraham’s) hand against Isaac. The angel was calling off the sacrifice. He said “don’t cut the boy’s throat.” That is quite a statement for the angel to make. This angel had to come with the Lord’s authority for only the Lord could say stop. Abraham was now not to do anything to Isaac. Why?

For now I know….

The angel of the Lord said that he knew that Abraham would not withhold the son of promise from God in any way, shape, matter or form. So what about this: did the Lord learn something about Abraham here? Oh boy, this opens a can of theological worms!

Without spending the next few months wading through that subject, let me say that God did not learn anything about Abraham. It was Abraham who learned something about himself. The context of this passage indicates this. It was in v. 1 that God tested Abraham. God decided to test Abraham’s faith. It seems to me that if God was testing Abraham, then God already had the answer but Abraham had not yet discovered this about himself.

So through the test, God was testing Abraham so that Abraham would learn the extent of his faith in God.

Parents do this to their children all the time. We ask our children questions, place them in situations, so they will react. We already know how they’ll react but they have yet to discover this reaction. When they react the way we knew they would react, have we learned anything? Nope. But we may say something like what the angel said to Abraham.

Abraham learned the extent of his faith in God. Abraham learned that he trusted God to the uttermost. He learned that nothing would ever replace his commitment to God, not even family. Abraham learned that he really did belong to God and would follow Him at whatever the cost. that is a good thing to know.

 

How do we do with knowing our commitment to God? I know we talk a good game about being committed, but are we really committed? If God called me – or you – to a place of sacrifice, would we go? You know, we should know that answer already.

God has called us to be living sacrifices. He has called us to take up our cross and follow Him. He has called us to leave all we know to follow Him on the narrow way into heaven.

We are at the place of sacrifice. Have we – you and me – discovered the extent of our faith? Just like Abraham, have we come to lay all on the altar in worship of Him?

 

 

Built on Obedience

The Path Less Traveled Final

True faith is always followed by obedience and actions.

Then they came to the place of which God had told him; and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.                            – Genesis 22:9-10 NASB

Whenever you boldly proclaim your faith, be sure that your feet are willing to walk where you proclaim you will go.

 

The journey that Abraham and Isaac had been on had come to it’s apparent end. Evidently God revealed to Abraham where he was to sacrifice Isaac since Abraham recognized the place. Imagine the feeling Abraham had. how would you feel if you had arrived to a place of sacrifice of your son? I can’t imagine the various emotions that  would be raging through me.

I suppose that as I came to the place of sacrifice my eyes would search all around to see a different sacrifice. I would be scouring the countryside for a lamb. ram or some other sacrificial animal. I imagine that i would be slowing down a little as I came to the place of sacrifice. “Where is the lamb?”

Abraham builds the altar. The thoughts running through his head must have been myriad. Abraham was building the altar upon which his son would be sacrificed. Wow. But Abraham did not stop there. He arranged the wood that would consume Isaac’s body.

Now pay close attention to the next part. Abraham bound Isaac and placed him on the altar. Isaac was probably a teen not a child if I’m reading the Hebrew correctly. So why does this matter?

Isaac could have resisted. Isaac could have run away at any point in this journey. Isaac could have said no and left his father Abraham. He must have known by now he was going to be the sacrifice. There is no record of Isaac negotiating with his father. There is nothing in the record that leads me to believe that Isaac objected in any way. Isaac was totally submitted to his father’s will. Ultimately Isaac was submitted to his Father’s will – God’s will.

Isaac was resolute in giving his all to God. There is no other way to interpret this. He was resolved to follow God’s will up to and including the point of death. How would I react to this? As either Abraham or Isaac, how would I react. How about you. Hmmm.

But Abraham’s actions did not end there. Look at the text – he (Abraham) stretched out his hand, took the knife with the intent of slaying his son. Abraham was following God’s call to the very end. Isaac was submitting to God’s call to the very end – the end of his life.

Now remember that Isaac was the son of promise. This is the son through whom God will make a great nation. This is the son God promised to Abraham and Sarah even though they were old. This was God’s miracle child to Abraham and Sarah. And now he is going to kill him and burn him on an altar by God’s command.

Let’s think about this for a moment. What was Abraham demonstrating? Well, we really have two main options. Abraham could have been demonstrating faith. He also could have been demonstrating obedience. let’s look at each of these.

 

Abraham’s Faith

He had to believe God had a plan to either restore Isaac to life or to provide a way out of slaying Isaac.

Abraham has demonstrated faith throughout this journey to sacrifice his son Isaac. Certainly he is at the very least demonstrating faith in this part of the journey. He would have to be a man of faith to go this far. He had to believe God had a plan to either restore Isaac to life or to provide a way out of slaying Isaac since God promised to make Abraham a great nation through this son and all the nations would be blessed through him. so yes, Abraham was demonstrating faith.

 

Abraham’s Obedience

Look at what Abraham did, not just believed.

Abraham was also demonstrating obedience to God’s call. He followed God’s instructions without question, debate, or compromise. He followed not only with his mind but also with his feet. He obeyed God. Look at what Abraham did, not just believed. Abraham took his son and servants and set out on a journey to an unknown place. God said “go!” and Abraham went.

Abraham ascended the mountain with his son, wood, fire and knife for the sacrifice of his son. Abraham took the tools that would lead to his son’s death and ascended to the place of the sacrifice. In fact he loaded the son with the wood that would consume his son’s body.

When he arrived at the place of sacrifice he built an altar. He put the wood on the altar. He bound his son and placed him on the altar. He took the knife and planned to cut his son’s throat and sacrifice his son.

Abraham did all these things. This is what I believe is being stressed here. Abraham – and Isaac – obeyed God to the uttermost. What a lesson for us today.

 

So how are you at obeying God? I’m not concerned with what you say, I’m concerned with what you do. When God calls you to a difficult place, do you complain?

What if God calls you to a physical ailment to demonstrate His grace. Do you complain about your situation? Or, do you take your physical ailment in stride knowing that God is the One who sustains you.

Maybe God calls you to the difficult place of joblessness. Perhaps He calls you to a life where you live without a spouse. Maybe your dream is not what Gods wants for you. Will you obey God’s call and release your dream? Definitely food for thought.

Whenever you boldly proclaim your faith, be sure that your feet are willing to walk where you proclaim you will go.

Make sure that your actions always support your professed faith. Our path of holiness is one that is built on obedience. As James stated in his epistle, faith that does  not have works is a dead faith, In other words, if you proclaim faith in God yet do not obey Him, then your faith is questionable.

True faith is always followed by obedience and actions.

 

Built on Trust

The Path Less Traveled Final

Are you trusting with your mouth or with your feet?

“Come on buddy” I coaxed my son. “Jump. I’ll catch you”

I was in the pool and my son Daniel was along the edge of it. He was hesitating.

“Dad, I’m scared. What if you don’t catch me?”

“I’ll catch you Daniel. Do you trust me to catch you?”

“Yes” he said.

“Then jump.”

I could see the struggle wanting to trust me yet the fear of the water. Daniel jumped. I caught him. We laughed and splashed in the water. His trust of me was demonstrated when he jumped. Are you ready to jump?

Trust is a funny thing. If I truly trust someone or something, that trust will have an action associated with it. True trust always – ALWAYS – shows itself in actions not just words. Here in Genesis 22 we see a wonderful example of trust in action.

This trust – the kind that leads to action – is the one that we exercise both choosing the path of holiness as well as walking on that path of holiness. Let’s take a look at biblical trust and what we can expect when we wholly trust the right One.

God’s call to Abraham began in verse one. It was a call to obey God that was built on a relationship between Abraham and God. Now that call continues where Abraham’s response to God’s call is built on trust. Do you trust God enough to follow His call on your life?                Are you ready to jump?

 

So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham raised his eyes and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. Genesis 22:3-8 NASB

After God’s call in v. 1, here in v. 3 Abraham responded to God’s call to sacrifice his sin – the son of promise – on a mountain yet hidden. He got a donkey, loaded it with wood, took a couple of young men in addition to his son Isaac. This group travels for three days and somehow it was revealed to Abraham that they had arrived at the place of sacrifice. Abraham tells his servants to remain while he and his son continued to ascend to the place where they will worship God.

During this journey, one may infer that Isaac was trusting his father Abraham for the past three days to take him to the place they need to be. I can imagine that Isaac had put together that there was going to be a sacrifice when they continued on their journey. Notice what Isaac says

Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?

So Isaac sees everything but the lamb for the burnt offering.  Now I want to make an important point here. Isaac was probably at least 15 or 16 years old. How do I know this? The Hebrew gives it away. I know this is not a child because the word lad in Hebrew is na’ar (pronounced na-ar). This means a young person, a youth or something similar. If Isaac was a child the word would have probably been yeled (pronounced ye-leth). Why is this important?

If Isaac was a youth of 15 or 16 he certainly had the physical strength and will that could prevent anything from happening to him that he did not want to happen to him. Isaac could have simply refused to go on this journey with his dad. He was carrying the wood for the sacrifice. Abraham was carry a coal or some sort of fire that would provide as the starter for the fire to consume the sacrifice. But no lamb.

Abraham responds with assurance that God would provide a lamb for His sacrifice. This is Abraham showing faith in God. Abraham trusted God to 1) either provide a different lamb for the sacrifice or 2) use Isaac as the sacrifice but resurrect him somehow (based on Abraham’s statement to his servants as he and Isaac left). Abraham and Isaac were both trusting God not with the words of their mouths but with the actions of their feet. Are you trusting with your mouth or with your feet?

This passage ends beautifully with the phrase So the two of them walked on together. Here they are, father and son walking together to fulfill God’s will for them both.

 

I wonder how much we are committed to following God. Do we really trust God? Do we trust Him with our very lives? Our family’s life? I’ve used the phrase “Talk is cheap but actions are expensive” before. And it is applicable to this as well. We can talk about trusting God all we want but until we do something with that head knowledge, all the talk is simply cheap talk. Just like my son in the story I shared at the beginning of this article, we must do something with our trust if we do indeed truly have trust in God.

That may or may not include leaving where we are now. It may mean various things. But are you ready to demonstrate your trust of God?

Immediately after God called Abraham to take the son of promise to a mountaintop to sacrifice him, Abraham takes action. Notice what is missing. There are no negotiations and no special pleadings by Abraham.

We can talk all day about trusting God and having a great relationship that is built on trust. But talk is cheap. Actions are expensive.

Do something with your trust. Do it today.

Built on a Relationship

The Path Less Traveled Final

“Hey! Patrick, come over here” I heard my friend Mark exclaim. “Let’s look in here.”

It was a tiny tunnel in the midst of a bunch of branches of many overgrown bushes of some sort. I wondered if I should follow him. I decided after a moment of internal debate that, since he is my best friend, I could trust him. So I crawled through the tiny opening. There wasn’t a lot of the bushes but my they were thick. The little tunnel seemed to take forever to crawl through. But the crawl was well worth it! When I caught up to Mark he had led me to an opening in the bushes. It was like a secret fort. And since I was in grade school and maybe 10 years old at the time, secret forts were way too cool. But that wasn’t all. Mark said “look at this” and pulled from behind his back not one but two bottles of Coke! He gave me one bottle and he kept the second. He even had a bottle opener with him. We sat in that little secret fort of ours for probably thirty minutes drinking the Coke and talking about what we were going to do when we grew up. It was a wonderful experience that I would have missed if I had not heard Mark call out to me and if I had not trusted him.

It is the same with our walk on the path of holiness. The first thing we need to do is realize that this walk is not one that we do alone. No, we do it with someone else. And this walk is based on our relationship with that other person.

Who is that person? Well read on, dear friend, and discover what God has in store for us.

The Call to Trust

Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.”

Abraham had become the father of Isaac in chapter 21. Th ending of chapter 21, the Bible states

And Abraham sojourned in the land of the Philistines for many days.

This sets the context for chapter 22. Abraham had been living in the land of the Philistines for many days. Since there are indicators in chapter 22 that Isaac is around 17 years old, I figure that Abraham had been in the land of the Philistines for at least that amount of time. Now this is just a guess by me but I think it is defensible. So why is this important?

I think this is important because  believe this shows that Abraham was comfortable with where he was and where he was living. He had settled into the life God had given him. He probably felt safe and secure.  Life was probably pretty good for Abraham, Sarah and Isaac. A happy little family living in the land of promise.

Isn’t that like us today?

We live comfortably in our homes with our wives or husbands and our children. We have our work to go to, usually good food to eat. We have our 401k, savings account. We usually drive the car of our choice and for the most part have very few needs. We have a lot of wants, that’s for sure. But there is Visa or MasterCard for that. Our society – at least here in the USA – tolerates us for the most part. Oh they think Christians are weird, but there aren’t any of us going to prison because we are Christians. We have it pretty good. Life is pretty easy for us. Hmmm, maybe we should listen a little more intently for God calling us to walk to an unknown place while trusting Him. Maybe…

God Knows Abraham

Take a look at the first verse in chapter 22. God calls Abraham by name – the name that was given to him by God Himself. Think about this for a moment. God calls to a specific person. He knows Abraham. Knowing Abraham, God knew where Abraham was in his life. He knew about Abraham’s lifestyle. He knew Abraham had his family and probably a comfortable life. God is the One who gave Abraham not only his family but also his name. Abraham was no stranger to God.

This is true of us as well. God knows us by name. He knows our life, our family, our comfort level. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He is the One who has given us all we have or hope to have. He is our source for life.

Abraham Knew God

Look at Abraham’s response to God calling him, Abraham said Here I am. Notice Abraham didn’t say Who are you? Why are you calling my name? Abraham responds as one who is responding to a friend when a friend calls. Abraham knew God. It seems that instead of confusion at God calling Him, Abraham was entirely comfortable with God calling his name. What if that happened today? To me? To you?   God knows both me and you. He knows us by name, by sight, by everything. He know us better than we know ourselves. He knows us perfectly.

If God called out to me Patrick! would I recognize His voice? Would I be comfortable hearing Him call me by name. Hmmm. How about you? Would you be comfortable?Would you recognize His voice?

The Path of Holiness is a Walk of Trust

God tells Abraham to take his son Isaac – the son of promise – somewhere in the land of Moriah and sacrifice him on a mountain not yet revealed. How is THAT for a call! Notice God didn’t call Abraham to a land of blessing. He called Abraham to a place of sacrifice. And not just any old sacrifice.

Isaac was the son – THE son – promised to Abraham by God Himself. Isaac was the son through whom a great nation would come. Isaac was THE son through whom all nations would be blessed. And now God wants Abraham to offer this son – THE son – as a burnt offering to God.

So what will Abraham do? Will he trust God? You can find the answer by reading through chapter 22. I encourage you to do that.

______________________

What about us? If God calls us to a place of sacrifice, are we willing to go? Are we willing to leave our place of comfort to go on a journey of sacrifice?

Now don’t answer too quickly. Talk is cheap, actions are expensive. I know plenty of professing Christians who fiercely proclaim that they would willingly die for Christ. But it seems these same folks are the last to open their homes to the homeless, feed the needy, or help those who most need help. Their common refrain is “I’m not called to that.” Be careful Christian with your proclamations of being willing to do anything for Christ. God may one day call you away from your comfortable life with your family, home and full plate of food.

If God does call for you to go, will you go? Will you (or I) even recognize His voice?

Digging at Diligence

The Path Less Traveled Final

Our walk on the path less traveled is not to simply gain knowledge for ourselves for the sake of gaining knowledge. It is to gain knowledge, tempered with wisdom, to pass on to those who desire it a deeper, much more personal knowledge of just who God is and what His word states.

 

Does God’s Church care about learning the deep things of God’s Word? I don’t know the answer to that question. For sure we are busy these days. We have jobs that usually require us to commute, political tensions, wars and rumors of wars. We have lots of distractions in the form of entertainment that vie for our attention and time. Where do we spend our time? Where do we invest ourselves? How we answer those questions tells the story of our desire to be be disciples of Christ and not just associated with Him.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15 NASB

There is quite a bit to unpack in these few words of Paul to Timothy. Let’s give this a shot and see what we need to do to be disciples – disciplined ones – of Christ.

Be Diligent

Paul begins with a command to be diligent. The Greek word here is spoudazoThis word means to proceed quickly, hurry, hasten or to be especially conscientious in discharging  an obligation. The second definition fits best with the context here in 2 Timothy. Think of the word zealous and you’ll have a good understanding of the word spoudazo. Getting a bit more technical, this context has it as an aorist present imperative. It is a command that, unlike the present active imperative, is expected to be done once. It also has the nuance of a completed task. So taking this all together, we have a command that is supposed to be completed and that thing to be completed is a basically a mindset. It is an attitude that we decide to have. But what are we to be diligent about?

 

Present Yourself

Our decision to be diligent is with the end being presenting ourselves to God. We are to be zealous to present – offer, or appear before – ourselves to God. That is our mindset. But this isn’t just showing up in front of God and saying “Here I am, God.” No this presentation of ourselves is with a caveat: as an approved workman who does not need to be ashamed. We are to show ourselves to God unashamed. We are to show ourselves as approved workmen. The word for approved is dokimos which has the idea of refinement having taken place. The verb for of this word, dokimazo, is also used of the process of refining silver to rid it of impurities. In that process the silver becomes more valuable and stronger because  the impurities are burned out of it under increasing heat.

This is THE picture I want in your head: a pot of silver bubbling over the ever-increasing heat of a furnace.

The silver is you and me. The heat from the furnace are the trials of life that put us under pressure. But  who is tending the fire? The master craftsman Himself – God – is stoking the flames. He is increasing the heat on use to purify us so that we can present ourselves to Himself as approved – having been tried, purified and sanctified by the flames and heat of His furnace. This is the meaning of dokimos.

The idea of approved here is just that: there is no chance of failure. When God begins the process, you will be approved.

Accurately Handling the Word of Truth

The final clause in this very important verse is a really neat one. It stresses why we should not be ashamed and why we are approved. It is because we accurately handle the truth. Now this word accurate is  an interesting one. The Greek word is orthotomountaElsewhere it describes a tentmaker who makes straight rather than wavy cuts in his material.That is interesting because Paul, the author of this letter, was a tentmaker. It can also mean a builder who lays bricks in straight rows and a farmer who plows a straight furrow.

So we gather from all these uses that it means to be accurate or straight with what we are doing. But are we doing this?

I’m saddened by what seems to me to be the most anti-intellectual movement in the Church’s history. Just about anyone with a computer, internet connection and a search engine can become an instant expert on all things biblical. Those who have worked diligently to understand the Word of God and the best way to study and interpret it seem to be cast aside.  This ought not be. Not all opinions are equally valid or authoritative. I’m sorry if this upsets you. But that is the truth. I would no more entrust my physical health to a self-trained “doctor” who read a few books on medicine than I would entrust my spiritual health to someone who read a few books on theology.

I’m all for Christians working through the Bible and not just accepting someone else’s interpretation of Scripture. But when a Christian decides that they know the Bible because they decide they know the Bible, well, that is just dangerous. If there is no one providing a check against a person’s bias (and we all have a bias) bad things can happen.

If we are serious about knowing the deep things of God we will be diligent to study. Being diligent means keeping at it when it is difficult. Being diligent also includes the idea of checking ourselves against those who know more and have experienced more. If we are serious about being diligent in our study of the word of God, we will zealously seek out those who have studied at a greater depth than ourselves. And if we are zealously seeking those who have studied at a greater depth than ourselves, then we will be working hard at knowing Him so that we may become a resource for another.

Our walk on the path less traveled is not to simply gain knowledge for ourselves for the sake of gaining knowledge. It is to gain knowledge, tempered with wisdom, to pass on to those who desire it a deeper, much more personal knowledge of just who God is and what His word states.

 

Pursuing Honesty

The Path Less Traveled Final

Are you pursuing honesty all the time or just when the bright lights of life are on you? Is the person people see the same as the person you and I actually are?

A number of years ago I was living in California. I went to Hollywood to walk around and hopefully meet some movie stars. I met one. Well, I was in the same store as one. This actress was a “girl-next-door” type in movies. She always seemed like a sweet person in all her movies and the interviews she did on TV. Well as I was working up the courage to speak with her was able to observe her interaction with another fan. It wasn’t good. How she presented herself in-person was totally different than how she portrayed herself on the big screen and in TV interviews. I was crushed. The person she was with the lights on was totally different than the one she was when they were off.

Our character – who we really are – must match with the person we project to others.

How are you doing with that?

What kind of a person are you?  Notice I didn’t ask you what others saw in you or how you acted towards others. Do you look the same regardless if the room is full of people are the room is empty? Sometimes – perhaps oftentimes – our public reputation and our private character don’t match. This is a basic issue of being holy. Being holy, first and foremost, means we must practice integrity in every area of life. Our character – who we really are – must match with the person we project to others. How are you doing with that?

Someone once said A person is not given integrity. It results from the relentless pursuit of honesty at all times.

 I think this captures the source and definition of integrity. A person of integrity pursues honesty – runs after it – all the time. Now this is not an easy thing to do. There are temptations to cut corners in being honest all the time. But we must try to resist falling to those temptations. Honesty is not the best policy…it is the ONLY policy.

Another aspect of integrity is the character – reputation issue.

A person’s character is who that person is. It isn’t necessarily how they are seen by others but who they are. It is the distinguishing characteristics of that person. Like my intro to this article, the actress to whom I referred had a character that was, well, not that good.

A person’s reputation is how they are seen by others. A person’s reputation is what is projected to be seen by others. It is the person we want others to think we are rather than who we really are.

So who are you? When it gets down to it, what is an accurate description of just who you are?

If we are honest (that word again!) with ourselves we all have issues with the character – reputation thing. We all change our behavior to fit our audience to one degree or another. Our choice to improve this area of life on our path of holiness is whether we recognize the problem in our lives. This is a hard truth to admit. We all do hypocritical things – things that may look good but all the while the real me or you is vastly different.

Pursuing holiness – at least in our present state –  isn’t about having none of these issues come up. No it is about being aware and wanting to change those things.

A story from the early Church

The church began in the book of Acts. During the early days of the church, all the members of the church had to rely on each other for support and help. They were viewed as weird, betrayers of Judaism or as gentiles invading the world of Judaism. To say they faced opposition is an understatement. And the opposition wasn’t just from the religious class. The State – Rome in their case – also didn’t really like them either since the Church pledged their allegiance to Christ, not to Caesar. It was an interesting time. Consider this

And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.

Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:32-37 NASB

So Joseph sold some his land and gave it to the Apostles for their use. That was pretty cool and sacrificial, huh. He certainly lived up to his name the Apostles called him (Son of Encouragement). Now lets turn our attention to chapter 4 and two folks names Ananias and Sapphira.

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.

Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things. Acts 5:1-11 NASB

This is the first instance of lack of integrity in the Church. Sadly it isn’t the last. But let’s consider what happened in this episode. So Joseph decided to sell a possession and give the apostles the proceeds from the sale. If you read before that episode, you won’t find any command to do so. Joseph simply chose to do this wonderful deed.

Apparently Ananias and his wife Sapphira saw this and the blessing of Joseph’s actions. So they decided they would do the same. Well, not the same. They would simply ACT like it was the same. They evidently thought they would be considered encouragers as well. So what did they do?

They sold a field of their own for a price. They kept some of the proceeds of the sale for themselves and gave the rest to the apostles for their use. There was nothing wrong with what they did. However, they allowed others (or actually told others) that they had done exactly as Joseph did. They wanted their reputation to be of giving people who put others ahead of themselves. But their character was different. They chose to deceive others about their true identity. they were interested in projecting a good image – an image of sacrificial givers – rather than being sacrificial givers. They were caught and God judged them harshly for their lack of integrity. Peter hit the nail on the head when he said You have not lied to men but to God.” Our lies – whether in words or deed – are lies to God, not man. 

So how are you doing with integrity? Are you pursuing honesty all the time or just when the bright lights of life are on you? Is the person people see the same as the person you and I actually are? These are tough questions. They deserves honest answers. Before we can ever make strides in holiness, we must be first honest with ourselves and God about what we do and why we do it.

Integrity is the first step on the path of holiness. Be sure your first step is on solid ground and not on shifting sand.