Point of Reference
by Fred Price
Such is the cry of all self-indulgent people throughout history. “…rebellious people, deceitful children,… unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction.” Is. 30:9 Those who do, “…not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God,…” Romans 1:28; and thus wander from the truth and become entrapped in evil. Not stopping there, they then become “cheer leaders” for those who follow them in their pursuit of self-gratification, “…not only continu(ing) to do those very things but also approv(ing) those who practice them.” Romans 1:32
Some disguise their freedom to do as they please with the trappings of the church, in doing so they negate Christ’s call for repentance with an all-encompassing love that not only makes no demands but has no expectations – no responsibility – no purpose. “…such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people.” Romans 16:18 (See also Colossians 2:4) Paul warning that, “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach (or the illicit things we all crave from time to time), and their glory is their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” Philippians 3:19 Set on the desires of the sinful nature, they are hostile to God and unable/unwilling to submit to his will. ( Romans 8:5-8) True believers, on the other hand, “Set (their) minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 5:12; by “…not comform(ing) any longer to the pattern of this world, but be(ing) transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2; enabling them to discern what God’s will is.
That, however, does not give us license to be intentionally hurtful, even when the very nature of what we’re debating may be contentious. Peter advising us to, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have… with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15 The key being for us to always be prepared to reason with everyone who asks , as we can’t force belief, can’t coerce change; people must be convinced – convicted. Paul likewise instructs us to, “Be wise in the way you act to outsiders;… Let your conversation be always full of grace… so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:5,6 Doubling down with, “Preach the Word; …in season and out; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:2 Which speaks to inspiring change, not forcing it.
An excellent example of someone demanding their own way while being resentful of any outside input comes from the Old Testament, but is applicable yet today. Judah and Israel had long parted ways. Solomon expanded the united kingdom’s borders to their furthest extent but died leaving the country anything but united, his son making the break-up irrevocable. Having been enemies and allies throughout the ensuing years, Ahab of Israel invited Jehoshaphat of Judah to accompany him in attacking a common enemy. Jehoshaphat agreed in principle but wanted a prophet of Jehovah consulted first. Ahab reluctantly agreed, complaining that the only prophet he knew of still prophesying in Jehovah’s name didn’t seem to like him or say anything good about him. (Which meant he consistently disagreed with his behavior.) That prophet, Micaiah, was summoned with advice to be agreeable with those “prophesying” victory. (See also Jeremiah 26:9) Brought before the king, Micaiah sarcastically agreed with his plan, but Ahab petulantly told him to be truthful about God’s word for him – which he got, and then immediately complained about. (God’s word being Israel would be defeated and King Ahab slain, which is exactly what happened. ( 1 Kings 22:1-38)
Micaiah further noted how God had discussed the means by which Ahab should be called to account for all his wicked deeds, finally settling on the expediency of a “lying spirit” speaking through the handpicked “prophets and counselors” of the king. 2 Chronicles 18:18-22 (See also Jeremiah 23:25-28) As Ahab, like so many others, sought advice from those who were like-minded and agreed with what he had already decided to do. Isaiah describing some in his day as exclaiming, “See no more visions… of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions… and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel.” Is. 30:10,11 (God’s dealings with those uttering “false words and lying visions” described in Ez. 13) Which is eerily similar to Paul’s description of some in his day – and ours – where, “…men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:2
God’s response to this age-old inclination of people to push the envelope of what’s acceptable and cross the boundaries of good taste and right behavior is, “…I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention…” Is. 48:17,18 The writer of Proverbs then exhorting us to, “…Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5,6 The question being: “Which of you will listen… or pay close attention…?” Is. 42:23 (See also Matthew 13:15)
Doing so doesn’t make us stuck in mindless tradition, intolerant, backward, etc. Jesus defended the Old Testament law ( Matthew 5:17-19) even as he challenged the tradition of man that had supplanted it ( Matthew 15:6); breaking with the old ways in-so-much as they had become over-burdened with man’s. ( Matthew 9:16,17) Maybe it’s as simple as Jesus encouraging us to look around and recognize the “fruit” of what we’re doing (See Matthew 7:15-20!); declaring, “…wisdom is proved right (or not) by her actions” (and results). Matthew 11:19
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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