Sharing Fake News
You've probably done it before. You find yourself scrolling through social media when you come across a jaw-dropping article. Maybe you read the whole article and thought it was a credible source. Or perhaps you just shared it because it had a click-bait headline and proved a point you were just making with some friends and family. If you’re brutally honest, maybe you were in a slanderous mood and it felt good to make someone look bad.
Then you get a text or you see a comment that says those dreaded words: "fake news."
With your ego scarred and your pride laid low, you try to find any evidence that what you shared was true. Your Google searches for the day begin to skyrocket as you search for anything that justify your wrong assumptions. You start dropping logic and links in the Facebook comments or Twitter feed. For those who are less tech-savvy, you pull misinformation from your favorite liberal or conservative news station to back up your claims because if they line up with your political and religious ideology, they can't possibly be wrong, can they?
The argument continues and contradictory information is shared from both sides until you decide that either the person you're arguing with is a complete idiot or you're so confused that you're starting to doubt whether either of you knows the truth. But since you've invested so much of your time and ego to the conversation, how can you back down now? How can you trust the liberal fact-checker Snopes or the conservative Politifact site? Who is to say that they aren't spreading lies because of their political, religious, and social bias?
Fake news will send you in a downward spiral of gossip, slander, conspiracy and misinformation, especially if your preconceived notions line up with it.
It's tough to navigate such a contradictory and confusing world. For many arguments, you could spend the rest of your life combing the vastness of the world wide web without coming to a sound conclusion on whatever you're arguing. With blogs, memes, Youtube, and self-publishing, spreading fake news has become rampant in our culture. So much so that measures have been taken by the social media giants to hunt down and block fake news pages and sites from wreaking havoc on our society. Fake news has even cost people their lives.
Old Problem, New Platform
With all of this talk about social media, we can be tempted to lay the blame on new technology. That sounds simple enough because the internet is one of the primary ways fake news is spread today. However, if you're acquainted with history or the Word of God, you will see that spreading fake news is nothing new.
Fake news is a new platform for the age old problem of deception. We've been seeing fake news since that crafty serpent deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-7). He took some truth, blended it with alternative facts, and shared it with Eve in such a compelling way that she turned her back on the generous and loving God of the universe, paint God as a selfish tyrant trying to keep something good from her. Then Eve, like we often do, took a bite of the fruit and shared it with Adam.
How often do we do the same thing? We read the slanderous fake news, share it, and in doing so participate in the sin of gossip. Then, as if we aren't satisfied to commit sin alone, we bring other people into with us!
Instead of saying fake news, we could use biblical language like: false report (Exodus 32:1), slander (Psalm 101:5), flattery (Psalm 12:3), malice, deceit, or hypocrisy (1 Peter 2:1). We don't like the sting that comes from these blunt phrases, so we use new terms, like "alternative facts". However, we can't get away from the reality that we are being devious and deceitful when we start or share fake news. We are not innocent bystanders.
We have all been guilty of this because we all have tongues that cause us to "stumble in many ways" (James 3:2). Although we don't always verbally speak when we share fake news, typing and spreading misinformation is contributing to the deception of the person who initially started the rumors. Worse yet, we often allow that fake news to enter our everyday conversations with the people in our lives. Without fact-checking for ourselves, we give an answer before we hear the whole matter and continue to spin the sticky web of lies that leaves so many trapped in falsehood.
Where Are The Faithful?
In Psalm 12, we see David lamenting the lack of faithfulness found among the men of his generation. He cries out that "the faithful have vanished from among the children of man" (v. 1). He then spends four verses lamenting the unfaithfulness and pride that came from the mouths of men around him. Notice his words in verses 1-4 (emphasis added):
Save, O LORD, for the godly one is gone;
for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.
Everyone utters lies to his neighbor;
with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
Notice how often David refers to the words of the people around him. They are not trustworthy, they lie, they flatter, they speak with double hearts, they boast, and they rebel against God. He focuses on their words and how their words put their prideful and deceitful hearts on full display.
It's also interesting to note that "everyone" is involved in this. Since this is poetic literature, we don't assume that there were literally no genuine believers among him. Rather we see that sin and wickedness is so rampant that it eerily resembles Genesis 6:5 when "every intention of the thoughts of (man's) heart was only evil continually." We feel this today, don't we? We often even see these tendencies in our own lives, don’t we?
Just as important is how the words of the unfaithful ones impacts others. They harm their neighbors with their lies. They use flattery and deceptive hypocrisy to do their sinful deeds. Through their lies, they achieve power. And with this power, they get puffed up and speak against both men and God. These unfaithful men use their false words to prevail over those they oppose, especially when they are oppressing the poor and needy (v.5). False words can be used to manipulate and control people if spoken with enough flattery and hypocrisy. That is what we see described here in Psalm 12.
God Still Answers His People
When the poor are plundered and the needy "groan", we get a glimpse of the faithful God and His words (Psalm 12:5). The LORD enters boldly and powerfully into the lives of His people and says, in opposition to the prideful and unfaithful men, "I will now arise... I will place him in the safety for which he longs. '' When God shows up to rescue His people, you can be certain that He will keep them and guard them. Though vileness is exalted in this world, God will rescue His children in the life to come. As He saved the Israelites when they were in bondage in Egypt, so He will incline His ear to the cries of the saints (Exodus 2:23-25). Like the days of Noah, He will purify the world again, but this time sin and death will be destroyed forever through His Son (1 Cor 15:26).
While fake news could cost you your life in this world, you can rest assured that in Christ you will have eternal life. In contrast to the lies and unfaithful words of our enemies, we can rest in the pure words of the Lord. Comparing God's word to silver, David writes that God's word is purified seven times, representing what James Johnston describes as "ultra-pure and ultra-precious". Compared to the flawed, wicked, and despicable words of the men in v.1-4, God's Words are infinitely trustworthy.
Since God's Words are indeed "pure words", not littered with particles of sin, malice, deceit, flattery, and hypocrisy, we can bank our lives on them. Every promise in the Word of God has and will come to pass because God "cannot lie" (Titus 1:2 NASB). God is the faithful God who cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). It is impossible for Him to lie (Hebrews 6:18). God still speaks to His people through the pure scriptures He breathed out.
God still answers His people through His Providential work in the world, working all things for the good of those who love Him. Even when God seems to be hiding His face from us, He is still working to get the glory in and through His people. Our focus, then, must be on something grander that what is directly in front of us. Like the saints of old, we have to acknowledge that we are "strangers and exiles on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13). Though we face tribulation at the hands of wicked and ungodly men in this world, we know this won't be the case when we reach our homeland. For this reason, we must cultivate a greater desire for the heavenly country we are traveling to when we leave this earth or our Savior comes in glory.
Give Good News Not Fake News
In these perilous days of fake news, you may find yourself bitter, hopeless, angry, deceived, or confused. What can you do to find joy, hope, and peace in the face of endless falsehood and deception?
Get to know the faithful God. When it feels like faithfulness and godliness are rare, we need to take time to get to know the faithful God of the scriptures. Read of God's faithfulness to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Ezra, Nehemiah, the Israelites, and all of His people throughout the ages. Read the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11 and stand in awe of the faithfulness of God. Search the gospels and take note of all of the prophecies fulfilled in the Son of God coming to save His people from their sins by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. Study Acts and the epistles to see how God fulfilled His Word by reaching the nations through faith in the gospel. And when you see it, take time to adore Him in prayer and faith.
Dig deep roots in the gospel. In Jesus' parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23), we see the importance of faith in the gospel. The three soils which did not bear fruit had the word snatched away (v. 19), had no roots (v.21), and had the Word choked out (v. 22). The good soil, on the other hand, had the Word planted in good soil where there was both hearing and understanding (v.23). We need to be people of the book. We need to be people deeply rooted in the Word of God. We need to be people who hear and understand the message of Christ and Him crucified.
Pray for Spirit-led faithfulness. Faithfulness is among the fruit of the Spirit. Of all people in the world, Christians are to bear the fruit of faithfulness, and this means we must strive for holiness in all of life, especially in our speech. By the Spirit, we are the ones called to speak the truth in love rather than allowing ourselves to be "tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Ephesians 3:14-15). In Christ, we strive to ensure that every single word we utter is 100% truth because "people will give account for every careless word they speak" (Matthew 12:36). Pursuing faithful speech is the surest way to keep us from walking in careless and wicked words which bring condemnation.
Consume and share media with discernment. As Christians, we are indeed sojourners on this earth. As we are passing through, we are not called to ignore the world around us. Instead, we are called to shine as lights (Philippians 2:15) through the way we engage with the people and structures around us. This means reading to find the truth regardless of whether it fits our agendas, biases, or personal preferences. It means hearing a matter before we choose a side. Most importantly, it means striving to glorify God rather than ourselves, our political party, or ideological leanings. It is eternally better for us to share the good news of the gospel with our neighbors than to partake in sharing the gossip which could ultimately lead them away from Christ.
Love your neighbor by not bearing false witness. A lying tongue and a false witness are two things that God hates and considers an abomination (Proverbs 6:16-19). Rather we should take up Angel of the Lord's call to the apostles to "speak to the people all the words of this Life" (Act 5:20). Rather being ready make a defense of slander, we should focus on being prepared to give people a reason for the hope that is in us, so that instead of being accused of slandering, we will suffer for doing good rather than evil (1 Peter 3:15-17). This can only come by a heart that has been transformed by beholding the glory of Christ through the Word of God. As children of God, our hearts have been radically transformed to love God and our neighbors rather than uttering lies to them or being double-hearted toward them.
Be Honest With Yourself
What news are you most prone to share? What news excites you when you wake up in the morning? Does that juicy news story get you more excited than the ancient stories of God's faithfulness in Genesis? Are you more excited to trash the president than to speak about the hideousness of sin? Do you get more joy from searching the web to win a Facebook debate than searching the scriptures to win souls to Christ? Do you find joy in slandering and casting judgment on those who disagree with your opinions (Romans 14:1).
Spreading fake news may never stop. Sinful people have been sinful for thousands of years, and until Christ returns, sin will reign in the hearts of unbelievers. If you're in Christ, you have the greatest and most powerful news on the planet—the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pray that God would give you more zeal and boldness to spread that message than any other message on the planet.
If we are going to use our breath for anything on the planet, let's use it to sow the seed of the gospel and choke out the seed of gossip in the hearts of the people around us.
"Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption."
We often talk about hope. We say things like: "I hope it snows Tuesday" or "I hope I get the job I just applied for". That sort of hope is usually just optimism—or even pessimism cloaked in positive vibes. Of course, it's not wrong to hope in this way, but this hope is a boat without an anchor, and it often leads us out to sea with no way back to shore.
The Bible speaks of another kind of hope— one that is unseen but staked in a reality that will not be shaken. In Psalm 16:9-10, we see this hope in action. Everything inside of David was able to rejoice, even in the face of death, because he knew a life-altering truth. He knew with unabating confidence that God would not abandon his soul to Sheol.
The God who was with him would not abandon his soul in death. Why? Because God promised him that one of his descendants would sit on his throne forever. David foresaw that Jesus would be this descendant and that He'd rise from the dead. His confidence in God's eternal presence and rescue was in God's faithfulness to keep His covenant promise. God never lies. In fact, God cannot lie. And God showed David that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, would rise from the dead.
This message is our hope, too.
After rising from the dead, Jesus said to His disciples, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." (Luke 24:44). He was speaking of his suffering, resurrection, and ascension to God's throne. In order for dead sinners to be rescued from the grip of death, death had to die. Death had to lose its victory and its sting. This is exactly what happened in Jesus' resurrection!
Jesus didn't take on human flesh to be a Ghandi-like moral teacher of the law. He didn't show up to be an earthly King and overthrow the Roman government. He came to do what the law couldn't do by fulfilling the righteous requirement of the law for us (Romans 8:3-4). He came to do what being a "good person" can't do for us. He came to pay for sin as our substitute because we couldn't and wouldn't even if we had the ability.
Since sinful men can't pay their own ransom and the ransom for another, someone without sin had to do it for us (Psalm 49:7). Jesus did that work. He proved it by paying the ransom we owed God—death—and rising from the grave with power. He then ascended to the right hand of His Father, and then "He sat down" (Hebrews 10:12). Task completed.
As we await for Christ to subdue all things under His feet, we can wait patiently because our hope is anchored in the work of God the Son. Christian, be patient and keep believing the gospel. Keep hoping in Christ even when the odds are against you and things aren't in your favor. God is with you, and He will never abandon your soul, even in death. You have been raised with Christ and you will one day be with Him forever. It's only a matter of time. Keep believing the gospel and looking to the Lord!
Image Credit: Pixabay
"As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight."
Don’t Be So Triggered
We are in a “triggered” age. Social media ramps up the rate and intensity of our triggeredness—is that even a word? It’s crazy that our conversations often revolve around something someone didn’t say to us. Too often, the people didn’t even have us in mind when they typed or spoke. Sure, they may have had a caricature of someone like us in mind. Perhaps they even had a friend who is similar to us. At the end of the day, we shouldn’t have been so triggered after all.
Christians aren’t exempt from being too easily triggered. In fact, if you join the right Facebook group or find yourself deep in certain circles, you may feel that you’ve been hit over the head with a sledgehammer and feel the need for a change. The struggle isn’t only found in those who appreciate the doctrines of grace, read systematic theology for fun, and wear Spurgeon t-shirts, either. Cynicism and being hypercritical is a universal struggle.
I’m Exhibit A
So often I find myself disagreeing with what some anti-woke guy said. Before I can utter, “I can’t believe…”, I’m upset at the woke guy’s response. I’m so quick to send a screenshot or a link to the group text to get their thoughts, and before I realize it, I’ve shifted into fully triggered mode with gossip only moments away. It’s exhausting and embarrassing.
Worse than that, it’s sinful.
God despises disunity among saints, unless the disagreements center on the gospel (1 Cor. 11:19). There are numerous passages calling us to be on guard against false teaching (Eph. 6:18, 1 Pet. 1:13, 1 Pet. 4:7, and 1 Pet. 5:8). There are also passages commanding Christians to help one another flee sin and stay faithful to the truth (Gal 6:1, Heb. 3:13, and Jam. 5:20). Yet, Jesus prays for perfect unity. Paul calls for the person who sows division to be warned a couple of times and then removed from the local church. There is no excuse for unnecessary division.
The Excellent Ones
David, in Psa. 16:3, gives us a beautiful picture of how we should view other Christians. He refers to the saints in the land as “the excellent ones”. Surely he saw their sin—the Bible is full of Israel’s sins in the days of the kings. Yet, he was able to look at the saints and see their excellence. He was not simply wearing rose-colored glasses. Just as a husband sees the beauty of his wife even through her flaws, so David could say that all of his delight was in the saints.
I want to be a pastor who feels that sort of love and delight for the people God has called me to lead. I want to be a Christian who looks around with delight at the true work God is doing in the Christians around me. My desire is that anytime someone slanders the people of God, I can speak up say, “I find great joy in those people because they are loving and pursuing God with beautiful, pure hearts”. As I’ve prayed through and studied this passage, I’ve been convicted and exhorted at the same time. I’ve been convicted by lack of delight in and love for the saints in my life and the church worldwide. The Holy Spirit has been exhorting me to repent and seek this sort of delight in His saints.
But how do I even begin?
How To Delight In God’s People
We need to change our attitudes. Jesus humbly looked after the interests of others more than Himself. He did this so much so that “for the joy set before Him” He endured the cross (Heb. 12:2). Instead of entering conversations, fellowship, or gatherings asking, “What can I get out of this?”, ask yourself, “By God’s grace, what can I offer to these people?” (Phil. 2:5). Humble Christians delight themselves in the interests of others.
We need to look for ways to encourage others. It may sound obvious, but we need to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thes. 5:11). It’s not always easy because pride gets in the way, but tell that overlooked Christian how blessed you are by their work. Thank your pastor for preaching faithfully in the middle of a long exposition through a book of Scripture. Remind that community group host family that you’re thankful for their hospitality. Encouraging Christians find delight in others because they are always looking to build one another up.
We need to commit to praying for one another. Christians are supposed to pray at all times with all prayer and supplication for all the saints (Eph. 6:18). That’s a mouthful! There are all sorts of prayers to be prayed, but most of our prayers for others will be seeking God on their behalf. It’s joyous toil to seek God’s help for your friend’s porn struggle to later see him repent. The labor of supplication is well worth it when you see a broken marriage healed, a drifting friend come back to the faith, or a brother under church discipline turn in repentance. Praying Christians will delight in one another because they are often before the throne of God seeking the best for each other.
We need to refuse to gossip about other Christians. If we’re praying for people more, we’ll gossip less (1 Pet. 2:1). Instead of telling your wife how foolish that church member is, bring his name to God and beg Him to grant repentance. When we do this, instead of self-righteous and slanderous gossip, we will speak words of kindness, care, and humility in the presence of God. We are a lot less arrogant and malicious when praying to the Savior who gave His life for our brother. Christians who refuse to gossip and slander will delight in one another while putting away evil, divisive, and malicious speech.
We need to be less triggered. If we’re honest, we know we’re often being manipulated by social media shock factor. Memes and short video clips are the worst! Next time you click that controversial link, ask yourself, “Am I angry right now? Is it because God was dishonored or simply because they disagreed with my opinion?”. Remind yourself in the moment that your anger does not lead to the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20). In fact, commit yourself to putting away all anger (Eph. 4:31). Christians who put off anger will find delight in one another because they’ll recognize that their anger almost never leads to anything more than sin and strife.
In what ways do you need to grow in your delight of God’s people? What’s one practical step you can take? Leave an example for us in the comments!
“...apart from Me you can do nothing” -John 15:5
A passage like this can sound cliché until you’re faced with a seemingly impossible task. Does Jesus really mean we can do nothing? Is this hyperbole? If we can do nothing apart from Christ, then how do so many unsaved people wake up, go to work, take care of their families, etc.?
For one, Jesus is the upholder of the entire universe (Heb. 1:3). If Jesus doesn’t keep gravity functioning as gravity, we will be in a huge mess. If Jesus doesn’t keep 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen molecule together, we don’t have water. There are billions of other processes and systems that Jesus upholds.
However, the thrust of John 15 seems to be pointing to spiritual fruitfulness. Every branch that doesn’t bear fruit is destroyed (John 15:2,6). Every branch that does bear fruit is pleasing to God. He is glorified when we cast off our self-reliance and bear spiritual fruit through abiding in Him (John 15:8). In this sense, apart from Him we can truly do nothing.
Yet we often try, don’t we? We get up, check our phones, glance at our bibles for a chapter, toss up some repetitions before meals, and then wonder why we aren’t more missional. We wonder why we aren’t bold enough to stand for our faith at the water cooler on Monday. It seems like we will never stop gossiping, overeating, vegging out on social media, or binging on Netflix. The days of patience with our children, love and respect for our spouse, and joy in the Lord seem too far gone.
For those of us in ministry, we wonder why we aren’t seeing change. We’ve tweaked the service, made the messages more engaging, chosen better illustrations, and found the perfect application... only for it to fall flat. That book on powerful preaching didn’t have the cutting edge after all. That new K-Love song just didn’t seem to resonate, and neither did the old-fashioned hymn we threw in. Maybe it’s time to throw in the towel.
If you’ve ever felt that way, you’re not alone. Some people feel this way daily. Some in ministry wrestle with this every Sunday (and wednesday and every other service there is during the week!).
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Jesus has called us to more than self-willed, pat-yourself-on-the-back, do-better-next-time Christianity. Apart from Me you can do nothing. Remember that? Apart from Him, you won’t do better. You can’t. We can’t. Branches that fall off trees lie on the ground until a mower runs over them or some kid picks one up and starts hitting stuff with it. Others go in bonfires. None of them become trees and start growing fruit.
We need Jesus. We need prayer. We need to open His Word, be fed, and pray for the Spirit to help us bear fruit. Our toes may have busted out of footie pajamas, and our waistlines may pop a few buttons on our pants, but we never outgrow the basic spiritual need of communion with God.
Dwell with Christ.
From Yeezus to faith in Jesus?
If you haven't heard yet, Kanye West has released a new album titled "Jesus Is King". Yes, you read that right. The self-proclaimed Yeezus who once uttered blasphemies such as "I am a god" and littered his albums and covers with sexually-explicit themes and excessive hubris is now a professing Christian with an album that fits in somewhere between gospel and hip-hop.
The outpouring of album reviews range from ruthlessly skeptical to pleasantly surprised as Kanye belts out Scripture-influenced lyrics about his newfound faith and the struggles he's wrestled with in life. He told the devil, "I'm going on strike", he calls his fans to follow Jesus, saying, "Raise our sons, train them in the faith", he calls listeners to "Use this gospel for protection", and rounds out the album with "Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess, Jesus is Lord" (alluding to Philippians 2:10-11). These are the actual lyrics from his album.
His interviews have been much like his album. When asked by Jimmy Kimmel if he was a Christian artist, he paused and then responded, "I'm a Christian everything!" In other interviews, he speaks of being delivered into the Kingdom of God and finding Jesus. His pastor, Adam Tyson, has not only preached the gospel at Kanye's Sunday Services, but he also attested to Kanye's profession of faith and the meetings where they have been discussing Scripture and his faith. I'm incredibly encouraged by what I'm seeing!
What Are We Supposed To Do With This?
The responses to Kanye's album and profession of faith have ranged from overwhelming support and excitement to rigid skepticism. I was very skeptical of the Sunday Services and figured Kanye was just trying to start a movement using God's name. Seeing the cost of his Yeezy's and "Jesus Is King" clothing have some questioning if he is just trying to profit off of Jesus' name. The concerns are certainly reasonable considering there are $260 shirts and $20 pairs of socks (some of these prices include a digital download of the album, which is worth ~$10).
However, after watching interviews and listening to the album, my skepticism has turned into optimism. I'm hopeful that Kanye is a legitimate Christian, and I have prayed for him. No Christian is perfect, and new Christians have a lot of pruning that has yet to be done, but his zeal for God seems to be according to the knowledge the Lord has given through the preaching and counsel of Kanye's pastor as well as his personal Bible reading.
I'm not Jesus, I don't know Kanye's heart. Friends have asked me if this is simply another egocentric grab at money. I sure hope not, but I don't know for certain. As I've pondered the situation, I'm reminded of a passage of Scripture that gives me the freedom to rejoice in "Jesus Is King" and Kanye's new path:
"Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice."
I don't know Kanye's heart. For that matter, I don't know anyone's. But I know one thing, if the true gospel is being preached then I can rejoice. When unbelievers stream the album and hear the outro, they hear one of the greatest truths in all of the universe: "Jesus is Lord". They are hearing the truth that "who the Son sets free is free indeed" (John 8:36). They are hearing that we need Jesus to give us grace, to heal us, to strengthen us, and much more. They are hearing that the gospel is our protection. It doesn't sound like envy, rivalry, or selfish ambition to me, but it could be.
We Can Rejoice When Christ is Proclaimed
Ye may not be a deep theologian. He may not know all the depths of the Trinity, the dual natures of Christ, or perhaps even how the Holy Spirit powerfully works in the lives of believers to make us more Christlike. But one thing he proclaims loudly is, "Jesus is Lord". He says, "God is King", and that he was never new until he knew of the True and Living God, Yeshua (Jesus' name in Hebrew). Christ is being proclaimed in this album.
I'm thankful that Paul spoke of his opponents, saying, "Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will" (v. 15). Why? Because even if Kanye is just doing this for the money and this is his greatest troll yet, I can still rejoice. Why? Because, "whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice" (v. 18). Whether it's Kanye, Lecrae, Shai Linne, or any other rapper, if Christ is preached, I can rejoice in the message even if the messenger is rapping from selfish ambition, envy, or rivalry.
I'm not naive enough to think that everyone who picks up a microphone and speaks about Jesus is saved. We see rappers mention Jesus and the Bible from time to time without evidence of life change. If Kanye is just using this to build his brand and use Jesus to do it, God will shine light on Kanye in due time. However, professing Christian rappers have walked away from the faith. Pastors fall from grace. Bestselling authors are denounce their books and place their trust in something or someone else. Entire denominations are departing from the Word of God to accommodate to the culture.
God Doesn't Need Us
God doesn't need Kanye West. He doesn't need Shai Linne. He doesn't need Lecrae. And He certainly doesn't need me. He doesn't need anyone. Let me repeat that for those in the back row: God doesn't need any of us. He doesn't need John MacArthur, John Piper, Tony Evans, or your favorite podcast preacher. H.B. Charles wisely said, "Christian celebrity is an illusion". If we're looking at Kanye as some Messiah who will usher in the golden age of Christianity, we've missed the point. Jesus is King (Psalm 2). But that doesn't mean we can't celebrate an influential man's conversion.
It seems that God has saved Kanye, and it's incredible. The angels in heaven rejoice at the salvation of one sinner saved Luke 15:7). Millions of people will be hearing Christ proclaimed through the music of this broken vessel. Of those millions, we don't know who God could be drawing to faith in Himself through him. We can rejoice that the gospel is God's power for salvation (Romans 1:16) and that sometimes God even chooses to speak truth through wicked men and their donkeys (Numbers 22-24).
Time Will Tell
Jesus has a parable that sheds light on all humanity. In Matthew 13:1-23, he describes a man who sowed some seeds. Some of the seeds were eaten up by the birds. Others sprang up quickly in rocky soil but were scorched to death by the sun because they had no roots. Yet others grew up among thorns and were choked out. Finally, some seeds landed in good soil, grew up, and produced grain.
We are all pictured in this parable. Some of us will have the gospel quickly taken away by evil one. Others will spring up quickly but fall away due to persecution. Yet others will have the gospel choked out by cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. Finally, some of us are like the seeds sown in the good soil, hearing the gospel and bearing spiritual fruit. We are all one of these types of soil, but only time will tell.
In due time, we will see more evidence of what is happening in Kanye's heart. I'm hopeful that He has truly experienced the blow of the Holy Spirit bringing regenerating life to his soul. God already knows, and He isn't surprised either way. The same goes for each and every one of us. Let's extend the same grace to Kanye that we had extended to us in the early days of our walk with Christ.
Have you, in your analysis of Kanye West's heart and motives, examined yourself to see if you are in the faith?
"And when they could not get near [Jesus] because of the crowd, they removed the roof above them and when they made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven".
If Jesus was in someone's home and it was too crowded to get in the door, would you be willing to go through the roof? If you knew Jesus had the cure to cancer and your spouse, parent, or closest friend was near death, would you go through the roof?Mark 2:1-12 is a both beautiful picture of faith, salvation, and healing and a gruesome depiction of the folly of the human heart.
In the one sense, we see the hungry and humble desperation of true faith. I picture their thoughts, "We must get to Jesus! There's got to be a way! He's the only healer who can actually help our friend walk". Then, in a final moment of joyful surrender, "Let's take the roof off and get him in there!" This act of faith pleased Jesus. They saw the face of the Son of God and His words were incredible, "Son, your sins are forgiven.". Faith. Son. Sins forgiven. Entire life changed for eternity. That's far more than they could've asked or imagine (Eph. 3:20-21).
In another sense, the wickedness of unsaved, hideous hearts was on full display. Some scribes were questioning Jesus in their hearts, "Why does this man speak like that? He is a blasphemer! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mark 2:6-7). The Son of God perceived the scribes’ questioning without them saying a word. Let that sink in. These Jewish leaders were questioning in their hearts, and to their utter shock and embarrassment, he answers their private thoughts out loud asking whether it's easier to say "Your sins are forgiven." (He had the authority to do so) or make a paralytic walk. He decided to do both. The result was that they were silenced and all who were around "were amazed and glorified God, saying, 'we never saw anything like this!" (Mark 2:12).
Do you desire Jesus enough to go through the roof? What's holding you back? I'm searching myself now to see whether I have this much faith. Will I put my phone away? Will I pause using social media, making music, writing blogs, doing side hustles, or preparing sermons long enough to meet with Jesus? It may have to look radical, but so was coming in through the roof. Am I willing to do it?
Are you like the scribes who "mastered" the law and prophets, knew the intricacies of the text and yet missed Who they were pointing to? Would you be the one calling Jesus a blasphemer? Jesus knew their hearts and He knows ours (Jeremiah 17:10 and Romans 8:27). Search us, O God and correct our sinful attitudes!
You may not need to go through a roof to find Jesus, but you may need to open a closet door, turn off a TV, or set an alarm. Seek Him, find Him, and remember that He will be pleased when you come in to spend time with Him. And if you have a heart like the scribes, He can change that too!
Will you go through the roof?
Image Credit: Essow Kedelina
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might."
Overconfidence loses sight of weakness.
Over the years, there’s a biblical hero that I’ve often skimmed over because I’ve known his story since childhood. Samson, the long-haired, mighty warrior of God is someone many have heard about in children's books and Sunday school. What happens to the brave warrior? When he has long hair he is strong, but when he has his hair cut off, he’s weak.
However, there’s a lot more to the story than meets the eye. Who was the source of Samson’s great strength? God was. God set Samson apart as a Nazarite when he visited Samson’s parents before he was born. We see in Judges 14:6 that the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him and allowed him to tear a lion in pieces with his bare hands. The Spirit also helped Him strike down 30 men of Ashkelon to do the Lord’s work of helping Israel (Judges 14:4;19). A third time, the Spirit of the Lord enabled him to strike down 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges. 15:14-15).
His demise came when he got a little too confident and allowed Delilah to wear him down to the point that his soul was vexed to death. Before this, he had been a powerful judge in Israel. After he revealed that his hair was tied to the Spirit's empowering work, he met his demise. The man who could destroy lions and slay thousands couldn’t resist a single woman’s persistence! Sadly, "he did not know that the LORD had left him" when he was finally kidnapped by the wicked Philistines.
This is a good reminder for us to find our strength in the Lord. Matthew Henry, commenting on Samson’s fall, says:
"Satan ruins men by flattering them into a good opinion of their own safety, and so bringing them to mind nothing, and fear nothing; and then he robs them of their strength and honour, and leads them captive at his will. When we sleep our spiritual enemies do not."
We need to know we are weak.
As humans we are more physically needy and weak that we like to admit. We need sleep, food, water, shelter, medication, vaccinations, etc. We battle with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, ADHD, and other mental and psychological ailments. We struggle to control our anger, manage our sadness, and choose to mask our struggles with entertainment, alcohol, work, or drugs.
We are also full of spiritual weakness and sin. We sin against God, ourselves, and one another. Humans in general are unrighteous (Romans 3:9-20) and enslaved to various passions and pleasures (Titus 2). We frequently choose the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life over Christ. Ultimately, we are spiritually dead and must depend on God for salvation. This is depressing and humbling, but it should point us to Christ.
In Christ, though, we still need God for spiritual vitality and growth (Eph 2:1-5). God doesn't just make us alive and save our souls (Col. 2:13-14), but he also sanctifies us and makes us more Christlike (Gal. 3:3:). Paul’s biggest frustration with the Galatian church was self-reliance: “Did you rely on the Spirit to get saved and now you’re relying on yourself for sanctification?” (my paraphrase). That’s ridiculous! If you’re going to grow in Christlikeness, it will never be by your own good deeds or works of the law. You have to lean in and trust Christ!
Our weakness draws us to the strength of God.
In Ephesians 6:11-14, Christians are called put on the whole armor of God in order to stand against the schemes of the devil. We take up the whole armor of God, in order to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. We are called 4 times in this passage to stand in the strength of God. We must never lose sight of this!
Our strength to stand and remain in the faith amidst intense spiritual warfare, worldly hatred, demonic attacks, and internal battles is found in the Lord, not ourselves. To “be strong in the Lord” is a passive command in the Greek. In other words, we are not the ones strengthening ourselves. Rather, we are putting ourselves in the position for God to strengthen us. It’s like saying, "Get your hair cut". It’s not usually assumed that we will cut our own hair. We are putting ourselves in the barber’s chair so that he can do the cutting. Similarly, we are putting ourselves in a position to be strengthened by God. That requires humility!
Do you recognize your weakness?
1. Do you think you have no need for God? Here's a word of exhortation from Scripture. Every drop of God’s furious anger resides on you if don’t repent. And you’re not some innocent person who doesn’t deserve it. You’ve broken His law. You’ve chosen your own path. You’ve said, “away with God and His rules. I’m doing things my way!” You must turn and repent! Though God is patient, His wrath is quickly kindled and once the forest is on fire, it’s too late to call for help! Come now!
2. Do you look back at your religious deeds and think you're good to go? You’ve never had a sense of need for God because you think you've had it all together. You may feel guilty on occasion, but you muster up enough "good deeds" tomorrow to soothe your guilty conscience. You may even create a worldly sort of guilt and shame in your mind that make you think, "surely these tears and this sorrow will warrant my forgiveness!" On the day of judgment when God asks where you belong, will you answer that Christ was enough or will you give a laundry list of excuses and try to justify yourself based on all that you’ve done? Enough of that! It’s time to cast that off and trust Jesus! Believe Jesus! Rest in Him!
3. Are you self-righteous? When you remember where you came from, you have to fight to see the grace of God and His goodness. When you look at your spiritual growth, you need to fight to see that it was the Holy Spirit who convicted you the last time you were in sin. It was He who showed you the way of escape in your last temptation. It was his power that helped you put that sin to death. And if you’re going to breathe another spiritual breath or take another step in your faith, it is He who will guide you into the truth.
4. Do you wallow in self-pity? Maybe you know where you came from and how much you struggle, but you can’t get your eyes off yourself and your sins. You can’t see past yesterday's failures to have hope for today. You, too, need to humble yourself and realize that it’s not in your strength that you’ll be able to pick up and move on. God will carry you. You’re not too messed up or too bad for Jesus. But, as a Robert Murray M'Cheyne once said, take ten looks at Jesus for every look at yourself. Cast your burdens on the Lord, for He will give you the strength to endure.
Learn from my mistakes
In college, I was an All-American triple and long jumper. During my freshman of college, I pulled my hamstring at indoor nationals. It was one of the most painful events in my life. I could barely put on my socks or even sit without pain. Even days later it was still painful to stretch or walk. A few weeks later, though, it felt great. I could stretch it, walk with no pain, and even do some light jogging.
I was amazed at how fast the hamstring healed. With the advice of the trainers, I went out and practiced. The warmups went great, the strides were painless, and I felt like I was finally getting up to speed! I was able to do some high knees, high skips, and even one-legged hops. By the time I got to the long jump pit, I was warmed up and ready to go.
Little did I know, my hamstring wasn’t ready. I stepped to the back of the runway and geared up to jump. I got a few steps into my run-through and felt like my old self. A few more steps and I felt the pop. Again. The dreaded hamstring tear became a full reality. I limped off the track in utter defeat and shock, barely able to stand again. This time it was torn and I was done for a year.
My torn hamstring wasn't the random result of a fateful day. Rather, I had not strengthened my hamstring to withstand collegiate sports. I had been strong enough to win state titles, break records, and find success. However, when the rigor of college track and field came, my muscles were too weak. I didn't recognize my weakness and it took a major injury to prove that I wasn't strong enough. I was relying on yesterday's success for confidence today. In hindsight, I should have been doing strength training all along.
Spiritually, I have often limped through life because I failed to recognize my weakness. In those moments, God graciously withdrew His strength and allowed me to fall. I say graciously because I learned that when I'm weak, He is strong. I am gradually learning the importance of small, daily habits to build my faith. God has called us today to stand firm in Him so that when the evil day comes we can withstand Satan. Abide in Him. Dwell with Christ. For apart from Him, you can do nothing.
How have you seen your own weakness? When you're weak, where do you run for strength?
Image credit: Pixabay
Last week we looked at Psalm 8 and saw that the glory of God should humble us. As we see our sin in comparison to God's holiness, we see our weakness, failures, and sin. In short, we were created for far more than the mud pies we settle for.
We were created to exercise dominion over creation and our desires. We were created to live for more than pornography, alcohol, drugs, entertainment, success, wealth, food, and the plethora of idols laid before us each day. And yet we often chase those things. Even in Christ, we aren’t exempt from falling into sin, even for seasons. We know it is hard to wage war against Satan, battle the flesh, and resist the world!
When we sin, what should we do? Should we lose all hope? Is there any real assurance that God still loves us? There is, and we find God's promise in 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness".
That leaves us with 3 options in handling our sin:
1. We can wallow in Eeyore-like self-pity and live with a “woe is me” mentality, thinking that we will never make progress and never be loved by God. I find myself here sometimes, do you?
2. We work from a foolish sense of self-righteousness and live with a “great is me" mentality, thinking that our progress was our own. I find myself here sometimes, too. How about you?
3. We can rest in Christ’s forgiveness and live with a “God have mercy on me, the sinner” mentality, knowing that God is "faithful and just" to forgive those who trust in Christ. Why? Because Jesus paid it all. Not some, not most, but all! This will also drive our pursuit of repentance because Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness. Only the gospel has the power to do that!
What do you do with your sin? What are you carrying right now that you need to confess?
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.”
We are not strong in ourselves. Even in our age of empowerment jargon and self-help, we are actually weak.
From childhood, we are promised that we can be anything and everything we desire to be. If we have enough intrinsic motivation and willpower, they say, we can achieve whatever we want. This all sounds so great. It appeals to our natural impulses to work hard and find success. Even Scripture shows us the folly of laziness and apathy. Yet the promises of strength and success that our culture offer us are not enough. They are hollow gourds.
We are not strong in ourselves. No matter how hard we try to convince ourselves that we are, we simply aren’t.
We may be able to muster up enough willpower and strength to hit the gym, make the grades, or keep that stellar office job. Yet, we will find our Achilles’ Heel eventually. If we don’t have an emotional breakdown, it will show up through depression, anxiety, foolish eating, etc. Weakness will show up in pornography addiction, egocentrism, criticism, or outright rejection of God.
We are not strong in ourselves. That’s part of what it means to be human.
God knows this and commands us to find our strength in Him. We have heard that He is strong, and anyone with a slightly religious background will acknowledge that. In fact, through creation, we all have clear evidence of God’s eternal power and divine nature (Rom. 1:20). What we do with that knowledge doesn’t excuse us from the fact that God is powerful. If we walk in unbelief or apathy, we will fail to have spiritual vitality. Instead finding our strength in God will allow us to withstand the attacks of Satan.
Knowing we are not strong in ourselves (I told you that, right?), we must ask a question: How strong is God?
1. God showed His strength in creation.
God spoke the heavens and the earth into existence! Don’t ignore the first 2 chapters of Scripture. When we look out into the vast night sky and see the glorious heavens—God made them. When we look at the seemingly infinite microscopic world that escapes even those with flawless vision—God spoke that, too. When we consider that gravity, sunlight, oxygen, water, and everything necessary to keep us alive comes from God, we see His mighty power in creation! Contrary to the notion that God just set things and motion and let them go, He actively governs and upholds the universe. God’s power in creation should draw us to look to Him for strength!
2. God showed His strength in history.
God displayed His majestic power over the nations. The grand narrative of Scripture shows us nations like the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, the Romans, or the Philistines rising to prominence and falling at the power of God’s mighty hand. Psalm 136 zooms in specifically on God’s power over Egypt and shows us what God did with that wicked Pharaoh who wouldn’t let His people go:
He killed their firstborn.
He brought Israel out of Egypt with his strong and outstretched arm.
He divided the Red Sea into two parts and brought Israel through it.
He overthrew Pharaoh and his men.
He carried Israel through the wilderness.
Beyond Egypt, God struck down kings and nations as He brought His people into the promised land—their names are largely forgotten today! We should praise Him for His powerful work in the past, knowing that He can do the same in the present and future for His people!
3. God showed His strength in redemption.
God, our Father, showed His strength in sending His all-powerful and all-authoritative Son to the earth to destroy sin, death, and Satan. Remember, He didn’t lack the power to defeat Satan. Nor does He lack the power to bring life to dead souls. He doesn’t lack any authority, even over His most wicked and powerful enemies.
Jesus, God in the flesh, died to destroy the devil who has the power of death. Not only did He destroy Satan, but He also delivered us from lifelong slavery to that wicked taskmaster. In Jesus, death has been swallowed up and lost its sting forever. We have been redeemed through His blood and brought from death to life! Jesus is powerful, for there is no man who can ransom another and no man who can raise himself from the dead except Jesus Christ!
God, the Holy Spirit, gave life to our dead hearts! He breathed life into our souls and made us new creatures! As He raised Jesus’ body from the dead, so He raised our souls from the dead. As He made dry bones live, so He gives life to dead souls! If that’s not a picture of the strength and power of God, I don’t know what else you’re looking for!
There is none like our God who has power over death and Satan. Even though Satan has the “power of death” (Heb. 2:14), God has the power of life! Death has no victory, no power, and no sting! (1 Cor. 15:54-55).
4. God shows His strength in sanctification (Rom. 8:13)
Not only does God raise us up from the dead and give life to our mortal bodies, though. He also gives us the power to continue killing the sin. Through the Spirit, we “put to death” the deeds of the body (Romans 8:13). We kill sin and become more Christlike. By what strength or what power? Better yet, by Whom? The Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead with power! If the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in us, we can be confident that He will make us holy (Romans 8:11)!
Elder D.J. Ward reminded us to ask ourselves to look back at our old lives and ask “How did we get from that... to being upright, church folk?”. The answer, of course, is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit giving us life and causing us to walk in the ways of God! What power! The Spirit who gives us life is the same Spirit who will see to it that we finish the race looking more like Christ. The power to grow in holiness doesn’t come from within ourselves, for Jesus is clear: “apart from Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
5. God will show His strength when He returns to overthrows Satan forever (Rev. 20:7-10)
Though the victory is already God’s, there is a sense in which we are still waiting for the fullness of victory to come. Satan is still prowling and still seeking to devour us and deceive the nations, but there will come a day when he will be thrown in the lake of fire and sulfur to suffer for eternity. There is a day when he will do nothing more than face torment day and night! God’s enemies have limited power now, and they will have absolutely no power in the future! God’s power is on display and will forever be displayed for eternity!
Behold God’s Strength
How should we respond to such displays of God’s power? One sure thing we can do is behold the power of God. When we look upon Christ, we are transformed into His image from glory to glory. As we stand in reverence of God, we will be delighted to submit to His supreme authority and find our strength in Him.
As you read your Bible and pray, behold the strength of God. Take seasons to meditate on the glory of God’s work in creation, history, redemption, sanctification, and the last days. Beholding this strength will not only humble us but also draw us to the worship of God that is truly good for our hearts! Behold Him today!
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?”
Do You Look Up?
Do you ever step out and just stare into the heavenly vastness of the night sky? Some nights, like last night, the moon appears more massive and much brighter than others. The Hunter’s Moon and other phenomena in space captivate the attention of people all over the world. But why?
God flexed His creativity in order to display His glory and bring us to awestruck wonder at His majesty. While many people still deny and reject God in their hearts, the heavens are tangible evidence that He is here. And He is glorious! His inexhaustible glory beckons us to respond. Some, being enemies of God, respond with foolish animosity and vain plotting (Psalm 2:1). As we see in Psalm 8, those who love God respond in humility and praise.
In Humility and Praise
Seeing how tiny we are humbles us. When we consider how infinitely miniscule we are in comparison to such a massive universe, our ego becomes too small to see with a microscope. Knowing that God is infinitely bigger than our universe should make us cry out with David, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Contrary to a popular preacher’s opinion, God doesn’t need us. Rather, we should be asking, “Why does He even care for a mere man or woman like me?” This is humility.
In praise, we ascribe to God words of truth and thanksgiving for His works and will for His people. We praise Him for His Son who was made “for a little while lower than the angels… crowned with glory and honor because of suffering death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). This is the ultimate picture of God’s love and care. Jesus didn’t stay in the grave, either. He resurrected with power! This should evoke praise in our redeemed hearts!
Let us sing with all creation: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psa. 8:1,9)
#MinuteMondays are intentionally short reads meant to be worshipful, thought-provoking meditations delivered to you each Monday morning! Enjoy and feel free to share using the #MinuteMondays!