God’s Sovereign Grace

Children of DNA or Children of Promise? (Romans 9:6-13)

“But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but ‘Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. For this is what the promise said: ‘About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.’” (Romans 9:6-9 ESV)

Jesus is the Messiah of Israel. How was he received? It certainly was a mixed reception with some believing and many not believing. As Isaiah 53 prophesied, Jesus was the fulfillment of Israel’s hopes and dreams, yet he was rejected. So, this leaves us with a real conundrum about the descendants of Abraham. In spite of their unbelief, are they all loved still by God in a saving way? Can a descendant of Abraham reject Jesus and still be under covenantal love? Is DNA enough to get a Jew to heaven?

Advertisements

Money Wise

The Ant Life

  • “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” (Proverbs 6:6–8 ESV)
  • “The ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer.” (Proverbs 30:25)

Consider the ant. What are ants known for? Many things, but if you watch ants, they are in constant motion—constant gathering and building and storing. We get these massive ant hills at our house. They seem to spring up overnight. Ants have incredible industry. We’ve all seen a little ant carrying something three times its size. There is nothing happier than an ant at a picnic.

Proverbs urges an approach to life and money that stewards money, energy, gifts, and opportunities. The opposite of the ant in Proverbs is the sluggard. The sluggard wastes his opportunities and time and guess what happens? He is surprised to find he is in need.

“The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” (Proverbs 20:4)

The Bible has no room for sluggards and freeloaders. The 4th commandment is, “Six days you shall labor.” (Exodus 20:9) Here’s the principle: God provides materially for us through the stewarding of the earth and the natural principle of reaping what you sow. The seed principle of investment. I put down a single seed and I reap a whole plant. Think of the cornfields that surround us here in Indiana. Those farmers are investing a seed and reaping a crop. Now there are unforeseen circumstances and tragedies that create hardships. But the general principle is that we labor, we are rewarded for our labor, and that reward provides for our todays and tomorrows. The Christian work ethic is well established and Bethelonians should be the hardest working employees wherever we are found.

“A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” (Proverbs 10:4)

The diligent worker will generally produce more than our immediate needs. What do we do with it? There is a big difference between what the wise person does with any excess and what the fool does with it.

  • “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” (Proverbs 21:20)
  • “The wise have wealth and luxury, but fools spend whatever they get.” (Proverbs 21:20, NLT)

We all are thinking of family members who spend every dime they get. How do the wise end up with savings and provisions for tomorrow? Simple. They live off less than they make. Now there is a novel approach to life. Live off less than you make.

Pastor Steve, That’s un-American! Indeed, our culture urges us to go into debt. Credit card debt is eating many family’s whole futures. The average person is carrying $6,741 in credit card debt.[1] Can I just say, that is NOT the ant life! That is NOT being money wise. Proverbs would urge cutting them up if you can’t pay them off month by month. If a fool spends whatever they get, what do we call someone who spends even more than they get and lives in constant debt? That’s harsh, but that’s Proverbs. It’s a gritty dose of reality, and those who are wise will heed it.

What is the wise alternative? The Bible urges, get this, living off less than you make and saving. Not hoarding. Hoarding is saving beyond any reasonable need in the future. Savings is prudent preparation for future needs.

“Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.” (Proverbs 13:11 ESV)

Notice it’s little by little; it’s not a get-rich-quick approach. It’s not foolish approaches like lotteries and gambling. Put those in the absolutely foolish category. I’ve heard Christians argue it’s just entertainment money. No, it’s the foolish use of money and failure to steward God’s resources. I was dismayed to see our local politicians agree to place a new giant casino right next to 80-94 in Gary. Casinos prey on the poor and financially foolish and it will be a terrible blight on our community. May a Bethelonian never be seen near one.

No. Far better is to be an ant and save little by little. To do that you have to live under your income, create margin, and save. The power of saving and compounding interest over time increases value. Think like an ant. It may seem like a daunting task to get out of debt and save, but you can do it. We have seen many people follow plans like Financial Peace University to change their whole financial world. It takes discipline and wisdom. But here’s the thing—when God gets ahold of our hearts, he gets ahold of our money too.

You may say, but I don’t like thinking about that stuff or My bank statements depress me. I’d rather not look! Is that how the wise talk or the foolish talk?

Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds, for riches do not last forever” (Proverbs 27:23-24)

Scripture urges oversight and stewardship of everything God gives to us. Know your flocks. Know your finances. Be a vigilant steward. I came across this definition recently,

“Stewardship is the active and responsible management of God’s creation for God’s purposes.” (Gregory Baumer and John Cortines)[2] It is only by wise stewardship and controlled spending that we create margins for saving and generosity.

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.” (Proverbs 13:22)

The real inheritance we provide to our children is not financial, it’s spiritual. It’s the gospel. I recently talked with the family member of a dad who created a multi-billion-dollar company. How do those kids of the rich typically end up? Fighting about money and strung out on drugs. This man wisely took his kids all over the world but not to resorts; he took them on mission trips to Africa and South America. He exposed them to the work of God in hard places. He left a legacy and his kids manage the fortune entirely toward gospel ministry. I’m told they received very little financially, but what a spiritual legacy! That legacy is available no matter what your financial status.

Live the ant life. Make the most of your gifts and talents. Make as much money as you legitimately can. Sow your seeds. Work hard. Reap your harvests. Save little by little, like an ant.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Additional Scripture quotations taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] Claire Tsosie and Erin El Issa, “2018 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” www.nerdwallet.com, December 10, 2018.

[2] Gregory Baumer and John Cortines, God and Money: How We Discovered True Riches at Harvard Business School, p. 47.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here

Proverbs, Wisdom, and Sex

Defense – Don’t Play with Fire

And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, and you say, ‘How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.’” (Proverbs 5:7–14 ESV)

“Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house.”

I think we understand what this means. Mark Twain once said, “There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.”[1] It is the application of the Lord’s prayer, “lead me not into temptation.” If I pray that and then knowingly or foolishly put myself as near to temptation as possible, I shouldn’t be surprised with what happens.

Others have said, sexual desire is like fire in the house. In the fireplace it keeps the house warm. Outside the fireplace it burns it down. God has put the fire of sexual desire within us. We must have a holy respect and fear of that fire being inflamed outside of God’s will.

Wisdom

The simple

The simple are those who have not yet fallen into the absurdity of the fool’s life but are not wise either. The simple are the morally naïve. They are childish in their outlook on life and lack the maturity to see what’s truly valuable. They are easily swayed, like the simple man who is seduced to the adulteress’ bedroom in Proverbs 5. He’s like an ox being led to the slaughter. The simple are easily overcome by life’s circumstances which wisdom could have saved them from. Proverbs 22:3 (ESV) says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”

Happy Father Day

I read something that said that the typical greeting “Happy Father’s Day” may miss the point.[1] OK. However, our families and our children and our marriages would be much better off if our sincere desire was not for a happy Father’s Day but for “Happy Father Day.” We don’t want the day to be happy we want the fathers to be happy. But herein lies the problem for so many dads and kids. Yes, the foot rubs and Home Depot gift cards are appreciated, but ask any dad which he would prefer, steak or ongoing happiness as a dad and I think you know the answer. Happy day or happy dad? Happy day or happy family? Happy day or happy children?

How to be a Happy Father

I’m going to assume that every dad greatly desires to be a happy father. We all want to be happy and that certainly includes the most important relationships in our lives—our family—and if we are married, our spouse and children. How do we do so?

The Inseparable Love of God

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35–39 ESV)

Can __________________ Keep Christ From Loving Me?

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Ten powers threaten our confidence in the inseparability of God’s love. He starts with the big one – Death. Death is our ultimate separation. Does Christ’s love extend past the grave? Life – life is filled with uncertainties and dangers. Can anything in life separate Christ’s love from me? Angels and rulers – The spiritual world has rulers and principalities. Is there anyone there who can impede his love? How about Satan? He’s strong, isn’t he? Things present or future? Is there anything in time or in the future that can pull his love from me? Powers – is there any authority on earth that can keep him from me? Height and depth speak to spatial realities – could the highest star be too high for his love? Could the deepest ocean be too far from his love?

If Jesus ____ for Us, Who Can Stand Against Us?

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:33-34 ESV)

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” The answer? Lots of people bring charges against God’s people. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Satan the accuser

“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. (Revelation 12:10)

Satan slandered Job. Satan slandered God in the garden temptation. Satan is a slanderer. Could it be that Satan has slandered you by name to God Almighty? It’s possible. Does the accusation of the highest demon alter our status before God? No.

“There is never the danger that Satan with all his cleverness and wiliness will be able to come forward one day and produce a clause that brings me under condemnation. God knows it all infinitely better than even Satan does. God knows all about the Law in its every detail, comma and jot and tittle, so nothing and no one shall ever be able to bring this charge against God’s elect.” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)[1]

The law of God

Sin is any violation of God’s law in action or intent. The law condemns us, and it should because we violate it all day long. We sin. We are sinners by nature and action. Do the accusations of the law stick? No.

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)

Through union with Christ we are under a new jurisdiction. A new law. The law of the Spirit under which we are free from condemnation.

Our conscience

I think this is a huge problem, particularly if you struggle with perfectionism or legalism. Our consciences will scream at us that we are guilty, and apart from God’s grace, our conscience is right. Or a weak conscience will tell us we are guilty for doing something that violates our conscience even if God doesn’t care about it. This is the struggle of the legalist who is not only trying to obey God’s law but man-made laws too. The result is living like we are perpetually losing when we are by grace winning in God’s eyes. What do we say to this?

“For whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” (1 John 3:20–21)

Other people

If we escape Satan, the law, and our conscience, there is no escaping the accusations of others. If we live any resemblance to a Christian life, other people will condemn us. It may be our beliefs which are out of step with societal beliefs, it may be our lifestyle which is at odds with the moral choices of people around us, it may be our inconsistencies which family and those close to us see. This all results in condemnations that sound like, you are a hypocrite, you are a bigot, you are holier than thou, you are a Bible thumper, who are you to tell me what’s right? etc.

“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” Lots of humans, demons, laws, and conscience. They can, and they will.

What do we do when they do? Like Paul, we appeal to Caesar. We appeal to the highest authority and the only opinion that matters forever, God’s. God, who do you say that I am? What is my status? Is what they are saying how you see me?

“It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:33) God declares us innocent. If God’s judgment is for us, whose charges can stand against us? Here is the Bible’s answer to our worry that we may get to heaven and find out that something went awry, something was missed, something is brought up at the last second and we are judged guilty and sentenced to hell. Can that happen to God’s elect? Can that happen to God’s justified? Unequivocally no!

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

[1] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, p. 410.

To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here