Friday, June 29, 2012

The Dog In The Manger

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. — Titus 3:3 (NASB95)

"Envy is resenting God's goodness to others and ignoring God's goodness to me."–Rick Warren

There is a short little fable titled, “The Dog In The Manger.” It goes something like this: There was a dog lying in a manger who did not eat the grain but who nevertheless prevented the horse from being able to eat anything either.” That one sentence paints a picture that you can immediately see and understand.

Envy works in much the same way. Something good happens to someone we know. Our response, rather than being excited for them, or congratulating them, or just being happy that the person can enjoy their blessing, we instead harbor a strange emotion. It can begin as a quick jab of jealousy. It can fester into a wound that hurts us and makes us wonder why that other person was blessed when we’re not. It can grow into wall of dislike and hatred of the other person, not because of something they did to us, but because they have something we want. We resent them and their blessing.

How do you suppose you come across to other people when you feel this way about them? It can’t help but dampen your attitude, and it might cause you to behave in ways intended to punish them or hurt them. Envy is a destructive attitude and emotion, causing great harm to everyone involved, especially to one’s self.

Envy is often found in biblical lists of sins. It’s often presented as paired with some other sins. In Titus 3:3, for example, it’s paired with malice, which is defined as a desire to “inflict injury, harm, or suffering on another.” It’s not enough that envy causes us to resent other people and their blessings, it moves us to hurt them. Interestingly, when Paul wrote to Titus, he set in contrast the negatives of verse 3, with the results of our salvation in Jesus Christ. The implication is that we’re not just saved from the sin of envy in that our guilt is removed, but that the effect of the gospel of Jesus is that envy itself is minimized or eliminated. We need to think more about the stated effects of the gospel on our natural-man tendencies. Christians may have once practiced these things, but when Jesus saves you, those sinful practices must be put away.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pressed Into Service

21 They pressed into service a passer-by coming from the country, Simon of Cyrene (the father of Alexander and Rufus), to bear His cross. — Mark 15:21 (NASB95)

I have come to believe that there are no random encounters. God is always at work, leading us to times and places where we might meet him. – Bryan Wilkerson

I have often wondered about Simon of Cyrene. He doesn’t get much attention, but what a fantastic role he played. This is the man who was forced to help Jesus carry the cross to the hill where the crucifixion took place. That’s really all we know about him. Or is it?

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all name the man from Cyrene who was “pressed into service” as a cross-bearer. But Mark tells us more. He informs us that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus. There is much speculation that perhaps these two sons are both named by Paul in some of his writings. It’s certainly possible, but there really isn’t any firm information identifying them as the same men. That isn’t necessary to make a very important point. Whomever Alexander and Rufus were, they were evidently men known by the readers of Mark’s gospel. He simply refers to them in a way that assumes his readers would know them. What that very likely means is that at least Alexander and Rufus were Christians, followers of Jesus.

It doesn’t take much imagination to connect some dots. Their father, Simon of Cyrene, having been forced to carry Jesus’ cross to the execution site, was very likely also a witness to the crucifixion. We don’t know if he’d been anywhere near Jesus before that, but the implication from the fact that his sons were both known by the early church suggests that Simon may well have become a believer, and subsequently his two sons believed in Jesus.

What a grand legacy that is. A man is forced to carry a condemned man’s cross. He witnesses that man’s death, and at some point comes to believe that the executed man is the Messiah. He becomes a follower. His two sons after him become believers. Then by the time Mark writes his gospel account, the sons are both well known to the church. Was it just a chance encounter that day? Had Simon not been there, it’s likely somebody else would have been pressed into service, but the fact is he was there. That encounter led to a legacy of faith in his family. Don’t miss your opportunities to be pressed into service. You might deprive your children of something that will change their eternity.

Friday, June 01, 2012

The Losing Game

17 “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also.   —  Acts 3:17 (NASB95)
Can anybody dispute the diagnosis that the main problem in the world is ignorance? Not ignorance about how to conquer the force of gravity—we have that knowledge, and we have done it. Not ignorance about how to invent gadgets. You press buttons, and everything is done for you. You sit down and enjoy yourself looking at the television while the washing is done and the cooking is done. Oh yes, we have all that knowledge. But that is not the knowledge I am talking about. I am referring to the knowledge of how to live; the knowledge of what humanity is and what it is meant to be; the knowledge of how to resist temptation; the knowledge of how to walk a straight path and to be clean and pure and wholesome; the knowledge of how to die without fear; the knowledge of what lies beyond—this is the knowledge we need. The problems of living and of life today are exactly as they have always been, in spite of all this vast knowledge that we have accumulated. All the knowledge that we have, and of which we are so proud, does not help us with the fundamental problems of the individual and of society—for society is nothing, after all, but a collection of individuals. And the state of the world today proves that the main trouble is still individual ignorance. . . . – Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Authentic Christianity.
Lloyd-Jones is correct.  People think they’re pretty smart.  Nobody wants to think they are “ignorant.”  But this is exactly Jesus’ understanding of people.  One time, Jesus grieved over his people and saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd.  On the cross, he looked out at angry, murderous crowds and asked God to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing.  Ignorant.  It’s not a very nice or positive evaluation.

When Paul wrote to the church at Rome, he wrote about people who suppress the truth (1:18).  Whenever truth is suppressed, the only possible result is ignorance.  Think about that in wider circles than just religion or spiritual matters.  Truth is fundamental to life.  Anything else results in a warped, messed up parody of life that maims and destroys.

Jesus said that the truth will set you free.  Truth does that, not ignorance.  And don’t fool yourself.  Truth doesn’t always fall into your lap.  You may have to work hard to obtain it.  But it’s worth everything.  Your life depends on truth.  Your eternal life depends on truth.  Don’t settle for ignorance.  It’s a losing game.