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Sermon No: 14-The kingdom of God - 7A - Self Esteem and Success-based Christianity



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SERMON TOPIC: The kingdom of God - 7A - Self Esteem and Success-based Christianity

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 8 February 2009

Topic Groups: SELF ESTEEM, PROPHECY, KINGDOM OF GOD

Sermon synopsis: Is doctrine important? Is it important to teach about prophecy? Is the current focus on self-esteem Biblical or something borrowed from secular psychology?
Jesus taught 7 consecutive parables in Matthew 13 about the kingdom. The parables, if understood, reveal the secrets of “the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 13:10-11). The 7 parables refer to 7 church ages. The seventh parable of 'The Dragnet' covers the period from approximately 1900 AD - present or the 'Apostate Church'. The 7 parables of Matthew 13 have a parallel with the 7 churches of Revelation 2 & 3. The Church of the Laodiceans presents to us the 7th and last Church. It is the state of lukewarmness, indifference, materialism and apostasy which characterizes much of the Western Church today.
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The 7 parables of

the kingdom - Part 7A

The 7 Parables of the Kingdom

Jesus taught 7 consecutive ‘kingdom’ parables in Matthew 13. The parables, if understood, reveal the “knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 13:11).

1

The Sower

The kingdom is sown and experiences rapid growth – the enemy seeks to steal the seed or destroy the crop through persecution.

2

The Wheat and Weeds

The enemy sows a counterfeit seed. Persecution intensifies.

3

The Mustard Seed

Exponential growth of the kingdom, but the enemy infiltrates from within.

4

The Leaven

Widespread corruption spreads throughout the kingdom.

5

The Hidden Treasure

A treasure is found.

6

The Pearl of Great Price

The treasure is acquired.

7

The Dragnet

The harvest and separation of the good and bad elements of the kingdom.

The 7 Church Ages

No.

PARABLE

+/ - PERIOD

CHURCH AGE

1

The Sower

AD 30 – 100

Apostolic Church

2

The Wheat and Weeds

AD 100 – 300

Persecuted Church

3

The Mustard Seed

AD 300 – 600

State Church (Constantine)

4

The Leaven

AD 600 – 1500

Papal Church (Roman Catholic)

5

The Hidden Treasure

AD 1500 – 1700

Reformation Church (Protestant)

6

The Pearl of Great Price

AD 1700 – 1900

Missionary Church

7

The Dragnet

AD 1900 –

Apostate Church

The 7 parables refer to 7 church ages. Like the other kingdom parables, the Dragnet parable also represents a period in Church history from approximately AD 1900 onwards, which can be classified as the “Apostate Church”.

7) The Dragnet

Matt 13:47-50 Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Good fish

The righteous

Matt 13:48 …Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away.

49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous.

50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Bad fish

The wicked

Fishermen

Angels

‘threw the bad away’

‘throw them into the fiery furnace’

Some points:

This will be the church that sees the “end of the age”.

There will be both wicked and righteous at the end of the age; in other words the whole world will not be converted as per Post-Millennial and Dominionist theology.

The age will end with the removal of the wicked by the angels and their subsequent punishment.

7) The Dragnet

The 7 Churches

Revelation 1:9-20 I, John… was on the island of Patmos… On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone ‘like a son of man,’… 1 His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “…Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels 2 of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.”

1 See Dan 7:13 2 or ‘messengers’

The 7 Church Ages

No.

PARABLE

CHURCH

+/ - PERIOD

CHURCH AGE

1

The Sower

Ephesus

AD 30 – 100

Apostolic Church

2

The Wheat and Weeds

Smyrna

AD 100 – 300

Persecuted Church

3

The Mustard Seed

Pergamum

AD 300 – 600

State Church (Constantine)

4

The Leaven

Thyatira

AD 600 – 1500

Papal Church (Roman Catholic)

5

The Hidden Treasure

Sardis

AD 1500 – 1700

Reformation Church (Protestant)

6

The Pearl of Great Price

Philadelphia

AD 1700 – 1900

Missionary Church

7

The Dragnet

Laodicea

AD 1900 –

Apostate Church

In addition to being addressed to literal churches in the Roman province of Asia, they are also typical of the 7 periods of Church history (Rev 1:19 “what is now and what will take place later.”) The 7 parables of Matthew 13 have a parallel with the 7 churches of Revelation 2 & 3.

Ephesus (AD 30 - 100)

Jesus praises their hard work and perseverance in hardship:

Rev 2:2-3 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance … You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Praised for being doctrinally sound.

They did not simply accept the claims of pseudo-apostles; they tested them and were commended for this. “I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.” (Rev 2:2)

They also opposed the heresy of the cults (early Gnosticism). “But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Rev 2:6)

Despite the praise, Jesus also has a rebuke, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” (Rev 2:4)

It is a trap that we can be very ‘down-the-line’ doctrinally and yet drift into a mediocre relationship with God. This was the state of the Ephesian church at the end of the 1st century (when Revelation was written). This church founded by Paul in the mid-1st century, pastored by Timothy (1 Tim 1:3), then later by John, had lost it’s first love.

Rev 2:9 I know your afflictions and your poverty - yet you are rich!

One of only 2 churches with no rebuke. Yet they were a poor and persecuted church! They were materially poor but spiritually rich.

“I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days” (Rev 2:10). Many believe that the ‘10 days’ may refer to 10 periods of persecution by Roman Emperors.

Nero (r. 54-68). Persecution after blaming his burning of Rome on Christians. Paul beheaded; Peter crucified upside down.

Domitian (r. 81-96), brief but violent; several thousand slain. John banished to Patmos.

Trajan (r. 98-117), Christianity regarded illegal: formalities of emperor worship. Ignatius burned at the stake.

Marcus Aurelius (r. 161-180). Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, and the Christian martyrs of Lyons and Vienne, 2 cities in France, martyred.

Septimius Severus (r. 193-211). Outlawed conversion to Christianity.

Maximinus Thrax (r. 235-238) reversed his predecessor Alexander’s policy of clemency towards Christians and persecuted them ruthlessly.

Smyrna (AD 100 – 300)

“10 days” of persecution

Decius (r. 249-251). In AD 250, Decius issued the edict for the suppression of Christianity.

Valerian (r. 253-260). At the end of AD 256 a new persecution of the Christians broke out. Killed Origen & Cyprian.

Aurelian (r. 270-275). Through evil counsel suggested to him, he became an enemy and persecutor of the Christians.

Diocletian (r. 284-305) began the persecution at the instigation of Galerius. Galerius allegedly burnt the Imperial Palace and blamed it on Christians. The emperor ordered the doors of the Christian church at Nicomedia, to be barred, and then burnt the edifice with 600 Christians within. Many edicts were issued by him against Christians. Churches were demolished, Christian books were seized and burnt, Christians were persecuted, imprisoned, tortured and killed. Besides being the 10th persecution, it also lasted 10 years (303-313) and was the severest ever persecution, almost destroying the church.

The Christians suffering persecution in the ‘Smyrna’ period before Constantine proclaimed religious freedom in AD 313 have this promise, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer… Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10)

Polycarp, the disciple of John, was an elder in Smyrna itself, the very church typical of the persecuted church age. When they came to arrest him on the charge of being a Christian, escape was possible, but the old man refused to flee, saying, “the will of God be done”. He came down to meet his pursuers, conversed with them, and ordered food to be set before them. He asked for and was granted permission to pray 2 hours for his brothers in the Lord, for the governor, for his enemies and captors. He was then brought before the proconsul. Whereupon the proconsul said: “I have wild beasts here and I will throw you to them, except you repent.” But he said, “Call for them, for the repentance from better to worse is a change not permitted to us; but it is a noble thing to change from that which is improper to righteousness.” Then he said to him again, “If you despise the wild beasts, I will cause you to be consumed by fire, unless you repent.” But Polycarp said: “You threaten that fire which burns for a season and after a little while is quenched: for you are ignorant of the fire of the future judgment and eternal punishment, which is reserved for the ungodly. But why do you delay? Come, do what you will.” 1

1 Source: “The Martyrdom of Polycarp” a 2nd century letter from the Church of Smyrna to the Church of Philomelium

“10 days” of persecution

When the proconsul urged him to save his life by cursing Christ, he replied: “Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Polycarp was sentenced to be burnt at the stake.

Tertullian, a Romanized African, was born and lived in Carthage, in what is today Tunisia. In defense of the Christians, Tertullian (who was trained as a lawyer) charged the Empire with unjust hatred against Christianity: “The term ‘conspiracy’ should not be applied to us but rather to those who plot to foment hatred against decent and worthy people, those who shout for the blood of the innocent and plead forsooth in justification of their hatred the foolish excuse that the Christians are to blame for every public disaster and every misfortune that befalls the people.” 1

1 Tertullian’s ‘Apologeticum’

“10 days” of persecution

Polycarp, elder of Smyrna

“If the Tiber rises too high for the walls, or the Nile too low for the fields, if the heavens do not open, or the earth does, if there is famine, if there is plague, instantly the howl is, ‘The Christians to the lion!’ What, all of them, to a single lion?” 1

“Every misfortune is ascribed to the Christians - as if earthquakes never happened until 33 AD… You say we are just another spin-off of philosophy, then. Well why don’t you persecute your philosophers, then, when they say the gods are fake, or bark against the emperors. Perhaps it is because the name of ‘philosopher’ does not drive out demons like ‘Christian’ does. We are not a new philosophy but a divine revelation. That’s why you can’t just exterminate us; the more you kill the more we are. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. You praise those who endured pain and death - so long as they aren’t Christians! Your cruelties merely prove our innocence of the crimes you charge against us. When you chose recently to hand a Christian girl over to a brothel-keeper rather than to the lions, you showed you knew we counted chastity dearer than life. And you frustrate your purpose. Because those who see us die, wonder why we do, for we die like the men you revere, not like slaves or criminals. And when they find out, they join us.” 1

1 Tertullian’s ‘Apologeticum’

“10 days” of persecution

Pergamum (300 – 600)

This period saw the conversion of the Roman Emperor, Constantine, and the beginning of what became the Roman State church. The centre of Christianity shifted to Rome, the former centre for Emperor worship – “where Satan has his throne”.

Rev 2:13 I know where you live – where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name.

Intermingling with false religion

As we saw with the birds in the mustard seed parable, this rapidly expanding church was characterised by the infiltration of false doctrine, and pagan traditions.

Rev 2:14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality.

False religion (Jezebel in the OT introduced Baal worship to Israel)

Rev 2:20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

In the kingdom parable for this period, we saw how the yeast (sin, hypocrisy, politics, simony & heresy) permeated the whole church

Warning by Jesus of pending judgment of suffering & death.

Rev 2:21-23 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.

First, a dreadful famine struck at the beginning of the 14th century, soon followed by an epidemic of bubonic plague (the “Black Death”) which killed 40 percent of the population of Europe, where most of the Papacy’s followers lived. Finally, the Hundred Years War (14th and 15th century) added to these murderous scourges.

Thyatira (600 – 1500)

Thyatira (600 – 1500)

Exhortation to early reformers (e.g. Waldenses, Lollards, Hussites)

Rev 2:24-25 Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold on to what you have until I come.

John Wycliffe sends out his Lollards

Sardis (1500 – 1700)

This church had “a reputation of being alive”, but was “dead.” Jesus admonishes them, “I have not found your deeds complete.” (Rev 3:1)

Despite the much-needed reform 1 and return to the 5 Solas (in particular Justification By Faith Alone), the reform of this period was incomplete. The reformed churches still retained a few corrupt practices that had resulted from the influence of paganism and unbiblical traditions (e.g. Infant baptism, State controlled churches - along with persecution of Anabaptists, Amillennialism, Cessationism,).

There were still “a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.” (Rev 3:4) This included the Anabaptists who took the “Sola Scriptura” to it’s logical conclusion and did away with all unbiblical practices, despite opposition and persecution from both the Catholic and Protestant churches.

The church is exhorted to complete the reformation and the abolition of all unbiblical practices, “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die … Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.” (Rev 3:2-3)

1 Addressed issues of prayer to saints and Mary, indulgences, confession & penance, transubstantiation & the mass, purgatory, celibacy of priesthood, primacy of Peter & apostolic succession, veneration of relics, and use of rosaries.

One of 2 churches with no rebuke. They had little strength, but were faithful:

Jesus commends them, “I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” (Rev 3:8)

At the end of the day, it isn’t faith in itself, but the object of our faith (God) that is most important. Luther said, “If I’m holding a purse full of money, I can hold it with a trembling hand or I can hold it with steady confidence. Either way, it does not change the contents of the purse.”

The previous church was told, “Remember… what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent”. On the contrary this church is commended, “you have kept my word and have not denied my name” and “you have kept my command to endure patiently”.

Philadelphia (1700 – 1900)

Jesus promised them an ‘open door’ - “See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” (Rev 3:8)

This was the church that ‘rediscovered’ the Great Commission and started to evangelise the unreached areas of Asia and Africa with the gospel.

This era also saw the 3 Great Awakenings in the US and English territories. There were mighty moves of God particularly in the Methodist and Baptist churches.

They receive a promise to be spared the ‘hour of trial’ - “Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon.” (Rev 3:10-11)

The “hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world” refers to the Tribulation that will occur in the next and last church age.

Philadelphia (1700 – 1900)

The 7 Church Ages

No.

CHURCH

PRAISE

REBUKE

1

Ephesus

Hard work, perseverance, doctrinally sound

Lost first love

2

Smyrna

Persecuted, materially poor but spiritually rich

3

Pergamum

Lived where Satan had his throne but remained true to Jesus’ name

Intermingling with false religion

4

Thyatira

Love, faith, service and perseverance. Some did not hold to Satan’s “deep secrets” doctrinally

Some tolerated pagan corruption & influence

5

Sardis

A few people who had not “soiled their clothes”

Reputation of being alive, but were dead

6

Philadelphia

Little strength, yet they kept Jesus’ word and did not deny His name

7

Laodicea

Lukewarm, materially rich but spiritually poor

Laodicea (1900 - )

The Church of the Laodiceans presents to us the 7th and last Church. It is the state of lukewarmness, indifference, materialism and apostasy which characterizes much of the Western Church today.

This is the only church which receives no praise from Jesus.

Lukewarm – no passion

Lukewarm (indifference, no passion)

Rev 3:15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!

Laodicea did not have a water source within the city. Water came via a Roman aqueduct from a source 3 miles away in Hierapolis. When the water arrived in Laodicea it was lukewarm. It was neither hot and therapeutic like the water in Hierapolis, nor was it cold and refreshing like the water in Colosse. The water was lukewarm and not pleasant to drink.

As we might do with lukewarm water, Jesus says he will spit them out of his mouth if they do not repent. (Rev 3:16).

D.L. Moody said, “I am tired and sick of half-heartedness. I don’t like a half-hearted man. I don’t care for anyone to love me halfheartedly. And the Lord won’t have it. If we are going to seek for Him and find Him, we must do it with all our hearts.” 1

1 www.boycottliberalism.com

Students in a class were once asked, “What would you say was the Christian’s number one sin?” to which a jokester replied, “Apathy, but who cares?” And as the old saying goes, “Many a true word spoken in jest.” 1

In the book “The Screwtape Letters”, by C.S. Lewis, a devil briefs his demon nephew, Wormwood, in a series of letters, on the subtleties and techniques of tempting people. In his writings, the devil says that the objective is not to make people wicked but to make them indifferent. This higher devil cautions Wormwood that he must keep the patient comfortable at all costs. If he should start thinking about anything of importance, encourage him to think about his luncheon plans and not to worry so much because it could cause indigestion. And then the devil gives this instruction to his nephew: “I, the devil, will always see to it that there are bad people. Your job, my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with people who do not care.” 2

1 Source: Richard Innes (www.actsweb.org) 2 Ralph Mann (www.fumcmarblefalls.com)

Lukewarm – apathy

C.S. Lewis

Lukewarm – compromise

Like the lukewarm church of the modern era, they were unaware of their condition:

“you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Rev 3:17)

One of the problems Laodicea had was a poor water supply that made the city vulnerable to attack through siege. If an enemy army surrounded the city, they had insufficient water supplies in the city, and the supplies coming into the city could be easily cut off. Therefore, the leaders of Laodicea were always accommodating to any potential enemy, and always wanted to negotiate and compromise instead of fight. 1

In the spiritual sense, lukewarmness is a picture of compromise. It tries to play the middle, not too hot and not too cold. But in trying to be both things, it ends up being nothing.

1 Source: www.ccfortwayne.com

Terrible times or godliness?

Postmillennialism, Kingdom Now, Dominionism & Reconstructionism teach that in the End Times godliness will eventually pervade secular society.

However Paul writes to Timothy, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days…” (1 Tim 3:1)

Will all the world be converted before Jesus returns? One of the most sobering statements Jesus made was in Luke 18:8, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

It makes no sense that a Christianized world would accept the Antichrist!

Timothy, there will be terrible times in the last days.

Describing the terrible times in the last days Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 that people will be:

Lovers of themselves

Lovers of money

Boastful

Proud

Abusive

Disobedient to their parents

Ungrateful

Unholy

Without love

Unforgiving

Terrible times or godliness?

Slanderous

Without self-control

Brutal

Not lovers of the good

Treacherous

Rash

Conceited

Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God

Having a form of godliness but denying its power

Today we are told that doctrine is not important as long as we all get along with one another. This again is a sign of the last days:

2 Tim 4:3-4 For the time will come when 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.

Disregard for sound doctrine

DON’T… TELL… ME… ABOUT… SOUND DOCTRINE… YOU LEGALISTIC DOCTRINE MONGERS

These statements by Paul would be considered too critical or divisive for some today:

1 Tim 6:3-4 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing.

1 Tim 1:3-7 … command certain men not to teach false doctrines… Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.

False doctrine promotes controversy amongst Christians, and not the other way around as some would have us believe:

1 Tim 1:3-4 … command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God’s work—which is by faith.

Disregard for sound doctrine

Is it Biblical to disregard sound doctrine? Paul tells Titus:

“You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine… In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us… These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority.” (Titus 2:1-15)

Sound doctrine is a safeguard for you and your followers not to fall away from the faith:

1 Tim 4:16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Disregard for sound doctrine

Paul says we must refute unsound doctrine:

Titus 1:6-9 An elder… must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

1 Tim 1:3-4 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer…

2 Tim 4:2-3 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.

The rebuke must be motivated by love and not spiritual pride though.

1 Tim 1:3-5 … command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer… The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

Remember the church at Ephesus (Rev 2) which was doctrinally sound, but had lost their first love.

Disregard for sound doctrine

As just one example, some people today feel that we shouldn’t pay too much attention to doctrines like the Second Coming and prophecy because it is too controversial. So we should not attempt to correct errors in this regard:

If this approach is correct, one might wonder why Paul wrote the 2 epistles to the Thessalonians primarily to correct false doctrine on the Second Coming. Why not just let it go for the sake of unity?

We know from the book of Acts that Paul’s stay in Thessalonica was only 3 to 4 weeks. 1 The epistle of 2 Thessalonians indicates that in this short period Paul had taken the time to teach them about the Second Coming of Jesus and about the antichrist (“man of sin”). 2 Clearly Paul was not of the opinion that this was a side-issue or an unimportant doctrinal point.

1 Acts 17:1-2 … they came to Thessalonica… As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures… 2 2 Thess 2:1-5 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way… Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things?

Disregard for sound doctrine

Why should we study prophecy. Isn’t it too difficult, too controversial, too unknowable? Is it so important?

God clearly considers it important; prophecy takes up over ¼ of the Bible:

In the Old Testament:

Isaiah through Malachi (minus Lamentations) – 16 books

Much of Psalms and many other passages (Psalm 2, Gen 49)

In the New Testament:

1 & 2 Thessalonians, Revelation – 3 books

Matt 24 & 25, Mark 13, Luke 21

1 Tim 3, 2 Pet 3

Many of Jesus’ parables

Disregard for sound doctrine

Paul speaks of people in the last days being pre-occupied with having a positive self-image (lovers of themselves): “People will be lovers of themselves… boastful, proud…, conceited…” (2 Tim 3:1-5)

This preoccupation with self is the result of the godless psychology which has crept into Christian theology and counseling. A typical Christian psychologist writes, 1 “Our attitude toward ourselves—our self-concept or our self-image—is one of the most important things we possess. Our self-concept is the source of our personal happiness or lack of it. It establishes the boundaries of our accomplishment and defines the limits of our fulfilment. If we think little of ourselves, we either accomplish little or drive ourselves unmercifully to disprove our negative self-evaluation. If we think positively about ourselves, we are free to achieve our true potential.”

1 Bruce Narramore, You’re Someone Special

High self-esteem

In the counseling section of Christian bookstore you might see these titles (Remember “People will be lovers of themselves”):

Love Yourself 1

The Art of Learning to Love Yourself 2

You’re Someone Special 3

Self Esteem: You’re Better than You Think 4

Self-Esteem: The New Reformation 5

Self-Love: The Dynamic Force of Success 6

Improving Your Self-Image 7

1 Walter Trobisch 2 Cecil G. Osborne 3 Bruce Narramore 4 Ray Burwick 5 Robert H. Schuller 6 Robert H. Schuller & Norman Vincent Peale 7 H. Norman Wright

High self-esteem

Self-esteem is based on Self-Image Psychology which derives from that branch of modern psychology called Humanistic Psychology. Self-Esteem, Self-Image, Self-Worth, Self-Love are not from God’s Word, the Bible, and are not found in the writings of historical Christianity… These concepts and their associated terms are not found within the Evangelical Church until the 20th century with the rise of Humanistic Psychology and its concepts of Self-Actualization and the emphasis on ‘needs’. Humanistic Psychology has played a major role in obsessing this generation with ‘Self’ and was developed by such men as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers… Maslow’s idea of human development through the Hierarchy of Needs is the exact opposite of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus acknowledges that it is the pagans who chase after their ‘felt needs’: “what to eat” and “what to wear”. But Jesus says, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt 6:33). 1

1 http:// procinwarn.com/ building.htm

High self-esteem

Ironically a secular psychologist concludes the following:

Baumeister 1 has found that people with high self-esteem tend to have low self-control. His excellent research lays the self-esteem myth to waste. Criminals, he has discovered, do not suffer from low self-esteem. They are not acting out their outrage at being oppressed, suppressed and abused. They are dangerous because they are narcissists. 2 They believe that what they want, they deserve to have, and the ends justify the means. 3

Professor Jean Twenge of San Diego State University says, “We need to stop endlessly repeating ‘You’re special’ and having children repeat that back. Kids are self-centered enough already.” 4

1 Wikipedia - Dr. Roy F. Baumeister is Professor of Psychology at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. He is a social psychologist known for his work on the self, social rejection, belongingness, self-control, self-esteem, self-defeating behaviors, motivation, and aggression. He has authored nearly 300 publications and has written or co-written 20 books… He earned his A.B. summa cum laude from Princeton University and his M.A. from Duke University. He earned a Ph.D. from Princeton University. 2 Narcissism describes the trait of excessive self-love, based on self-image or ego. 3 John Rosemond, Dec 2, 2001, “Unearned praise leads to mediocrity,” at www.rosemond.com (Dec 8, 2001). 4 www.pluggedinonline.com

High self-esteem

After analyzing 16,475 college students over a span of more than 24 years, a group of researchers concluded that today’s collegians are far more narcissistic than previous generations. By 2006, two-thirds of all students had above-average scores on a standardized inventory test that indicated various degrees of self-centeredness—a 30% increase since 1982. 1

Twenge and her researchers traced the upsurge in narcissism to what they call the “self-esteem movement” that sprang up in the 1980s. They believe the effort to build self-confidence has gone too far, and that parental permissiveness is part of the problem. In her book Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled – and More Miserable Than Ever Before, Twenge asserts that narcissists tend to lack empathy, react aggressively to criticism and favor self-promotion over helping others. They are also more likely to commit infidelities in their personal relationships, be emotionally cold, lie without remorse, and exhibit violent behavior. 2 1 www.pluggedinonline.com 2 www.lcweekly.com

High self-esteem

Clearly many godly men in the Bible could have benefited from the modern teaching on self-esteem and positive confession:

Agur: “I am the most ignorant of men” (Prov 30:2).

Mephibosheth: “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” (2 Sam 9:8)

Abraham: “I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Gen 18:27).

Jacob: “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.” (Gen 32:10)

Leah: “I am not loved” (Gen 29:33).

Moses: “I have never been eloquent… I am slow of speech and tongue.” (Ex 4:10)

Gideon: “…how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6:15)

Saul (when he was still righteous): “But am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? ” (1 Sam 9:21)

Isaiah: “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5)

Low Self-esteem: OT examples

The following list from David is not exhaustive:

“But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men…” (Ps 22:6).

“I am lowly and despised” (Ps 119:141).

“I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends— those who see me on the street flee from me” (Ps 31:9).

“All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse” (Ps 102:8).

Low Self-esteem: OT examples

America’s largest Mega-church pastor says:

“If we say it long enough eventually were going to reap a harvest. We’re going to get exactly what we’re saying.”

“You can change your world by changing your words…”

Here are David’s ‘positive confessions’:

“I am poor and needy” (Ps 40:17, 70:5, 86:1, 109:22).

“I am faint… I am worn out” (Ps 6:2,6).

“I am lonely and afflicted” (Ps 25:16), “I am about to fall” (Ps 38:17).

“My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught” (Ps 55:2).

“I am the song of the drunkards…I am scorned, disgraced and shamed… I am in pain and distress” (Ps 69:12,19,29).

Health & wealth theology says that David will get what he is saying. David says “Yet I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay.” (Ps 70:5) and becomes Israel’s king. It was not positive (false) confession, but a true statement of the facts and an appeal to God which helped him.

Low Self-esteem: OT examples

And in the NT:

John the Baptist: “… he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (Acts 13:25)

Peter: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8)

The Prodigal: “I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Lk 15:19).

And Paul says of himself:

“For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle…” (1 Cor 15:9)

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Tim 1:15)

“What a wretched man I am!” (Rom 7:24)

“I am less than the least of all God’s people” (Eph 3:8).

Low Self-esteem: NT examples

Some however clearly understood the value of high self-esteem. Look at this positive confession and note the high self-esteem and assertiveness:

Satan says: “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:13-14)

God says: “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12, see also Rev 12:7-9)

So the Bible does not teach that what you say you get, provided you are very positive. David says “I am poor” and becomes a king; Satan says “I will ascend to heaven” and gets thrown out of heaven down to earth”.

High Self-esteem: Biblical examples

Here’s another positive person with high self-esteem:

The Pharisee: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” (Luke 18:11-12)

In contrast, Jesus tells us of a man with low self-esteem, “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ (Lk 18:13)

Jesus says of the tax collector, “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 18:14)

High Self-esteem: Biblical examples

And the Babylonian harlot, “I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.” (Rev 18:7)

Despite her positive confession, God says of her “She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.” (Rev 18:8)

Then the positive confession by the Laodiceans, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.”

Jesus says, “you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Rev 3:17)

Paul writes, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Rom 12:3)

And who can forget Jesus’ words in his Sermon On The Mount, “Blessed are the meek” (Matt 5:5) ?

Luke 17:10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”

High Self-esteem: Biblical examples

We say, “A new command I give you: Love yourself as I have loved you.” Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13: 34) Jesus didn’t command us to love ourselves, because we already do.

You might say, “But I really have low self-esteem. I hate myself. When I look in the mirror I hate the way I look; I’m ugly”.

If you really hated yourself, you would be glad that you were ugly, so that people could have a reason to hate you more.

“No, the problem is, you love yourself and you want to look better than you do, you want people to treat you with more respect than they do, and the only reason you are upset by the way people treat you is because you love yourself and you think you deserve more than they are giving you.” 1

“I hate myself so much, I’m going to kill myself”. Even suicide is not motivated by self-hate, but by self-pity. A person in a suicidal state of mind cares more about their own state of depression, than by the misery and hurt they cause to others (especially children) by killing themselves. Hitler had very high self-esteem and he killed himself.

1 www.thebereancall.org

High Self-esteem: Biblical examples

I hope that we in the American evangelical church (a. k. a., the society for felt needs) are listening, especially those who have taught that Jesus advised us to love ourselves first, so that we could then love our neighbors. Twenty centuries ago, the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Ephesians (5:29), “no man hates himself–no way, man–he pampers himself!” (personal paraphrase). When we place that text alongside Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” (properly exegeting the term, “as”), the Scriptures say to us, “You love yourself plenty. As a matter of fact, you need no training in this. As a matter of matter of fact, you love yourself too much. Therefore, how about taking the energy you’re pouring into yourself and donating it toward someone else.” Contrast this meaning to the (unintentional) harmful ways of the self-esteem movement, which have falsely convinced us that our greatest problem is the lack of self-love, rather than the presence of it. 1

1 http:// scrawnypulpit.wordpress.com

High Self-esteem: Biblical examples

DEFINITION OF ‘HUMBLE’:

not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive

reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission 1

Scripture says:

Matt 23:12 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Eph 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle…

Phil 2:3-8 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who… made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant… he humbled himself…

Luke 1:46-52 And Mary said, “… my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant… He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.”

1 Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary

Self-esteem: Biblical perspective

1 Pet 3:8 … be compassionate and humble.

Matt 18:4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

James 4:6-10 God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

1 Pet 5:5-6 All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another… Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

Self-esteem: Biblical perspective

In the last days people will prefer entertainment to God, being “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim 3:1-5).

Some churches have changed into religious entertainment centres. Church members are viewed as consumers, and consumers must be given what they want. What they want is to be entertained so God must be presented as a ‘consumer-friendly’ God. Don’t talk about His holiness, wrath and justice; talk exclusively of His love. Present God as a nice old man, who is always there to help you and make you happy. Much of today’s worship is oriented to the idea of entertainment. The people must have a good time or they will leave the church and go to one which has a better band, a funnier preacher, a bigger stage, and better lighting effects.

Solomon found that seeking after pleasure is futile (Eccl 2:1-11). It cannot bring true joy, because the only thing in life truly worthwhile is serving God (Eccl 12:13-14). One problem with the hedonistic 1 lifestyle is that it enslaves you. Paul tells Titus (3:3), “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures…”

Jesus warns that pleasure-seeking can make you unfruitful: “…as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (Luke 8:14)

1 Hedonism is the philosophy that pleasure is the most important pursuit in life.

Lovers of pleasure

A typical book title by today’s televangelists might be “Releasing Your Potential: Exposing the Hidden You” or “God Has a Plan for Your Success”. By ‘success’, they’re normally not referring to overcoming sin or being a good soul-winner either, but being healthy and wealthy. The following excerpt from a ‘Christian’ website sounds more like something you’d expect from a motivational speaker. Hopefully you can see the difference between this and Biblical Christianity.

“The SuccessChurch is based on Christ’s Divine Model of Living, High Achieving, and Winning in life. God wants each of us to be a witness for Him, but a witness utilizing our Success in life from Him to bring Him Glory, and to Succeed through His Power, not ours… We have been led to spread the message that we serve a God of Divine, Unlimited Blessings, and Total, Overflowing, Ever-Enlarging, Multiplying Fullness. There is NO Emptiness of Substance with God, and thusly we believe there should not be Emptiness in any aspect of our lives, including relationships, careers, family, health, and finances and Godly Success. We believe that constant struggle in life is a choice, not a destiny. God’s Overflowing Wealth and the Riches of His Kingdom that He Promises in His Word are available today to His children, as part of our inheritance under the New Covenant of His Precious Blood.” 1

1 www.successchurch.com

“Success” based Christianity

We have an emphasis on “celebrity Christians”. A fuss is made of celebrities who are professing Christians, because people like to associate themselves with success. Yet James writes:

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? (James 2:1-7)

“Success” based Christianity

A modern Christian website says we must be “a witness utilizing our Success in life from Him to bring Him Glory”. 1

Paul tells us to “boast in the Lord” and not of our own success (which the Corinthians clearly didn’t have) but to boast in the Lord.

1 Cor 1:26-31 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Jesus didn’t say that people would know we are Christians by our success, but by our love for others, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

1 www.successchurch.com

“Success” based Christianity

The only church where Jesus is outside, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock…” (Rev 3:20)

We have lots of programs but no Christ! Paul says that in the last days people will “have a form of godliness but denying its power.” (2 Tim 3:1-5) i.e. occupied with religious ritual which has lost the significance.

A Chinese Christian recently visited churches on a US tour. When asked what he thought about American spirituality, he answered, “I am amazed at how much the church in America can accomplish without the Holy Spirit.” 1 1 “Why Isn’t the American Church Growing?” - by Kevin Turner

The Christless Church

John 12:48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.

Acts 17:31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.

Heb 10:30-31 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

“The modern habit throughout the Christian church is to play this subject down. Those who still believe in the wrath of God (not all do) say little about it; perhaps they do not think much about it. To an age which has unashamedly sold itself to the gods of greed, pride, sex, and self-will, the church mumbles on about God’s kindness, but says virtually nothing about His judgment…The fact is that the subject of divine wrath has become taboo in modern society, and Christians by and large have accepted the taboo and conditioned themselves never to raise the subject.” (J.I. Packer)

The coming judgment

Warning about continuing in this condition.

Rev 3:16 So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Exhortation

Rev 3:18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Still loved

Rev 3:19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.

The invite:

Rev 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

The warning & exhortation

Oh Lord, take Your plow to my fallow ground Let Your blade dig down to the soil of my soul For I’ve become dry and dusty, Lord I know there must be Richer earth lying below

For I’ve been living in Laodicea And the fire that once burned bright, I’ve let it grow dim And the very One I swore that I would die for Oh has been forgotten as the world’s become a friend

We have turned from Your Law to try to find a better way Each man does today what is right in his own eyes We will pay the price for our sinning We can never know true living, we’ve exchanged His truth for lies

For we’ve been living in Laodicea And the fire that once burned bright, we’ve let it grow dim And the very One we swore that we would die for Oh has been forgotten as the world’s become a friend

Living in Laodicea

It’s no small of a thing that He’s done for you By shutting the gates of hell upon the cross We were sentenced once but now we are pardoned And He chooses to use us though we fall

So while we’re living in Laodicea Keep the fire burning bright, don’t let it grow dim For the very One we swore that we would die for Must not be forgotten Fear the world become a friend For the very One we swore that we would die for Must not be forgotten Fear the world become a friend 1

1 Steve Camp

Living in Laodicea

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV: THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (http:// www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV: Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.




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