The Apostle Peter has taught us to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”(I Pt.3:15) But perhaps we need to ask two questions first. Do we have a real and solid hope for whatever is ahead? And what is the content of that hope? Christians should be able to answer a solid “yes” to the first question. We are people of hope, and that hope is the strength of life. But to the second question we need to be clear on what that hope rests. It is not upon some vague belief that everything will somehow turn out OK. It is not a hope based on some political figure, some scientific achievement, or even upon a belief in the basic goodness of mankind. Our hope is in the One who created us, the One who has loved us enough to redeem us from the power of sin, and the One who will bring His purpose for His creation, and His people, to perfect fulfillment. It is in this hope we “give answer” by actions of God’s love, and words of His truth, to as many as God gives us the opportunity.
I really hate a lie for any reason. I know people come up with many plausible reason to tell a lie, but I don’t think it’s necessary. It seems that lying becomes a way of life in our fallen world. We hear about fake news, statistics are used to create false impressions, half truths and outright lies seems to be the way politics must operated. Even personally they become the way to save face, get out of awkward situation, and avoid responsibility. I’m afraid the Eighth Commandment to not bear a false witness takes a real beating. But lies are a way of hiding, and when one is hiding there is fear of being exposed. That is not the way our Lord wants for us. The Apostle John wrote,”Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”(3:20-21) It should be our rule to “live by the truth”.
I know a few very smart people. There is nothing wrong with being smart. It is a gift of God. But as with any gift it is to be guided by God’s wisdom and used for God’s glory. Our country is being run by some very smart people, but for the most part, not under God’s wisdom or to His glory. The result is not a good direction. The Apostle Paul was a very smart and highly educated man. After reviewing his credentials in a letter to the Philippian Church he said, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,…”(3:7-8) Paul knew that it was only through Christ that he could properly use the knowledge he had for the good of his people. In our desire to create a secular society, accepting of all values as equal, we’ve gone off in very wrong directions. The writer of Proverbs understood this three thousand years ago. He wrote, “Desire without knowledge is not good– how much more will hasty feet miss the way!”(19:2) Many very smart leaders face tremendous problems today. The true knowledge that is necessary to meet our needs can only come from the Lord. “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”(I Corinthians 1:25) Can we humble ourselves enough to seek that wisdom?
There was an interesting article on yesterday’s Business page of our local paper. Walmart is buying up a number of small on line retail companies with various product lines. What caught my eye was their comment that they were doing this “to better serve their customers”. Now, I’m not opposed to capitalism and a free market economy, but a statement like that simply is not true. Amazon has a 33% share in the on line retail market. Walmart only has a 7% share. They want a larger chunk of the business. OK, I’m totally out of my field in talking about economics, but truth is truth. And I’m not against Walmart. I shop there. However, I would like to see a little more truth and honesty when public statements are made. This should be true whether for business, certainly politics, and above all the church. We have found it all to easy to color our words for the best impressions. And, yes, I’m asking too much of a fallen world, but at least it should be a reminder for us of the Eighth Commandment not to bear false witness.
16th century Alchemists worked to transform lead into gold. They used there arts and secret formulas to find a means for producing great riches. The only problem is that lead and gold are both elements. They can be combined with other elements, but they can’t be changes. It just strikes me that in our modern day we have not stopped trying. Gold in the Scriptures is a symbol for the truth of God. It is pure and unchanging. But, rather than taking God’s truth for the beauty that it is, and understanding its good, mankind keeps trying to take lesser things and say they are equal to God’s truth. The Serpent’s original temptation, “Did God really say …?”(Genesis 3:1) is always with us. Yes, God did say, and His truth can’t be changed. He has given it to us in purity, and for our best good. Let’s keep gold as gold and lead as lead.
Poland has the strictest abortion laws in Europe. Their parliament just rejected another law that would have made them even more strict, and with greater penalties. An interviewer was asking about the rights of women to make their own choices in the matter. One of the legislators responded with a question, “Are there some values that are beyond the choice of the individual?” That is a powerful and difficult question. Clearly society has said that there are. Otherwise we would not have laws against premeditated murder, driving under the influence, or others. Of course we can violate these and other laws, but they have still been established for the good of society. The question is, which values are beyond individual choice? And a companion question, what is the source for establishing those values? Now there is conundrum that occupies many volumes. Yet it is one we must all think about in order to set the values by which we live. And God’s revealed word can’t be left out of consideration.
God gave Solomon great wisdom. Many of his words in the Book of Proverbs make good sense. He speaks on a whole range of topics from personal relationships, good business practices, avoiding sexual sins, family matters, and so on. There are right and wrong ways to live and get along in the world. We cannot do our own thing believing everything will be fine. We need to listen to good counselors. Unfortunately, good counselors are hard to find in the midst of all the voices that are speaking today. That is why we continue to turn to Solomon, and all of the other writers of Holy Scripture. We go to the wisdom above all others, Almighty God who gave us His Word. We declare that it is our guide in all matters of faith and life. All true wisdom is from God. With the guidance of His Spirit, we search out that wisdom from Scripture, and we say with the Psalmist, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. “(119:105)
I look forward to getting the mail each day – then throw about 90% of it out. I get the daily paper and scan for those things that are of interest – not bothering to read the vast majority of what is printed there. Truth comes in nuggets, like panning for gold. We throw away all of the gravel and mud, just keeping the one small piece that is of great value. But that nugget is of great value. It can even be life changing. God gives us those “eureka!” moments that help open our life to Him. A few words from a sermon; a passage of Scripture read dozens of times before; a line from a book; a word from a friend. The Holy Spirit can bring that moment to us at any time by various means, when our heart is ready to receive it. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t happen every day – or don’t seem to happen very often at all. They do happen, and they are pure gold. They assure us again that God really loves us, and wants us close to Him.
There is a question that ethicists in scientific and particularly medical fields asks. “We can do this, but should we do it?” Too often things are done because we are capable of doing them without thinking of the consequences that may follow. Solomon writing thousands of years ago said, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”(Proverbs 1:7) This states that there is a standard by which the pursuit of knowledge should be governed. In Matthew 6 Jesus advised the people listening to Him on the mountain side to “seek first the Kingdom of God…”(vs.33) We do much seeking after new truths in this area and in that, but we are not seeking in the area that really matters above all, the knowledge of God and His will. This great ethical question is not limited to scientific endeavors, but really applies to our actions in all of life. We can do such and such, but should we? Actions have consequences. It is only in seeking to walk in closer fellowship with our Lord that guides us in those choices. After all isn’t that what was gained for us by our Lord in the recently celebrated Good Friday and Easter events? Jesus said I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.(John 10:10)
We are a people who believe in free speech, but unfortunately it is becoming less free. Those in power have become so sensitive about offending people that certain words have been banned. Even “him” and “her”, “he” and “she” are called into question. To have a Bible sitting on an office desk, or wearing a cross are considered offensive in some places. Laws have been enacted banning hate speech. There are countries where pastors have been prosecuted for preaching against homosexuality. Jesus was a pretty plain spoken man calling the spiritual leaders hypocrites and whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones, and the ruler of the country a fox. Of course we know what they did with Jesus. The point is not that we go out of our way to offend people. Scripture does caution us to watch our tongue. But in reality God’s truth is offensive. God’s truth confronts all the false truths upon which our broken world has established itself. In Ephesians 4:15 St. Paul teaches us to “speak the truth in love”. In some places that will get us censured or worse, but our desire is always for people to find the “truth in Christ that sets them free”.