Monday, August 06, 2007

Back in the saddle again...

Ok, I've actually had a request or two to keep this thing up - not like desperate pleas, just curious wonderings, "So, when are you going to post again?" and the like. I don't portend to be some great blogger in that, but the requests got me tihnkin' - this thing's the only way I can catalog the lessons I've done. Thus, I've decided to resume posting my lessons online - hoping that it will one day pay off. I may not post regularly, but I will try to do so from time to time when I have something to post.

Anyway, I had the pleasure of giving my first sermon a few weeks ago (July 1) and there are a few thoughts from it I'd like to note. The material for my sermon came largely from the lessons I posted previously under the titles, "Vengeance is Mine" Part I & Part II.

The text dealt with Amos 1:11,12 and how Edom pursued his brother (Israel) with a sword - with a vengeance. The key point to my sermon came with the quote of John Stott's (which graces the top of this blog),

"Envy is the reverse side of a coin called vanity. No one is ever envious of others who is not first proud of himself."

When Haman ruefully considered the souring effect Mordecai the Jew had on his enjoyment of the good things in life (see Esther 5:9-14), he gives us a perfect model of exactly what John Stott is describing. In the same breath that he boasts about his life (verses 9-12), he declares his envy for Mordecai's worship (v. 13). Haman envied Moredcai's worship because he was first proud of himself - hence the need to hang Mordecai 80 feet in the air.

Thus Haman's life tells us in no uncertain terms that pride lies at the heart of vengeance. Nine times out of ten, when we get after someone for wronging us, it is not because they have actually wronged us, but rather, because they have injured our pride.

But more than that, Amos 1:11, 12 tells us that Edom was not just vengeful, but vengeful toward their brother. If you look at Jesus' own condemnation of hatred in Matthew 5:21,22, he condemns hatred as murder, but qualifies it specifically as hatred for one's brother.

All of this tells us that God values our relationships over our behavior. If you look at the first tenet of the Westminster Shorter Chatechism, it tells us that the purpose of man "is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever." What does the word "enjoy" mean, but to partake in a relationship with Him? And that for an eternity?

Look also at the Creation account. In Genesis 2:18, God says, "It is not good for the man to be alone..." It is interesting to note that this is the only aspect of His creation that God specifically said was "not good" - and it had to do with our relationship (or lack thereof) with another human.

It seems there is clear evidence from Scripture that the reason we exist is twofold: to relate to God, and to relate to one another. So what does this have to do with pride and vengeance?

Permit me to define my terms:

  1. Pride is guaged by our degree of concern for ourselves.
  2. Relationships are guaged by our degree of concern for one another.

You see, pride and healthy relationships are mutually exclusive concepts. One must be sacrificed if the other is to remain.

This, I believe, lies at the heart of the Christian doctrine of salvation. I have heard some tell me that when they die, they'll "talk it (their life) over with God". But this is tantamount to saying,

"I'm right. I know I'm right. And in the end, I'm sure God will understand that I was right all along and, really, He was wrong to expect me to have faith in an intolerant, outdated system of belief."

In other words, such people value their pride over a relationship with God.

I've posted my sermon in five segments in WMA format. It's not streaming audio, so you have to download each one and each file is about 8 MB in size (about 7 minutes each). It's not a perfect sermon, but it was decent enough I'm not ashamed to post it.

The Heart of Vengeance:

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

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