Sunday, September 18, 2016

Believing & Belonging, Part One: The New Covenant Community (Hebrews 8.6-13)

One of the things the media presses on us relentlessly today is the belief that the Christian faith is simply one of many religions. And many people seem to feel today that, since it was the prevailing religion in our country in the past, maybe it’s time to push it off to the margins and let some other faiths have center place for a while. But after all, there are many religions — you Christians (we are told) are just one of them.

Strident atheism, which has become more common on television and in social media in the last few years, predictably says that Christian faith hasn’t done much for the world. In fact, we’re the cause of many of its problems. We Christians with our missionary zeal are said to be the cause of endless wars and the spread of disease; wherever we go, they say, we impose a set of cultural values on peaceful and happy people in the name of God; we obstruct scientific research; we don’t care for women; and I recently read that we are the real cause of climate change!

There is much to be ashamed of in the history of the Christian movement as a whole. But even a quick reading of the New Testament shows that unrestrained nationalism, racism, and cultural superiority doesn’t sit well with the plan teachings of Jesus. The misuse of something doesn’t say anything about its proper use: The fact that some people choose to overdose on aspirin tells us nothing about the true value and power of aspirin. And the misuse of the Christian faith by some cannot overcome its true value.

So this morning I want to ask:

Is Christianity just another religion, or is there something unique about Christian faith?

Are we, in fact, the cause of more problems than solutions? Or is the solution Christian faith offers worth holding on to despite the criticism.

Does Christian faith offer something, and come through on it, that can be found nowhere else?

Christianity is often classed with Judaism, as we should be since we are the legitimate child of the Old Testament religion. The Christian movement was birthed by Jewish people in the first century. Christians have always granted to the Jewish scriptures the same authority as our New Testament scriptures, which were written by those same Jewish people in the first century.  Christianity was, for at least fifty years, simply a sect within the larger Jewish religion.

But we separated — both because we grew larger than our parent and because they pushed us out. But both sides agreed that we separated for good reason. I want to think about the reason today.

The primary reason is, of course, Jesus. The Jewish Bible, which we call the Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would arise from the Jewish people as a descendant of David. Christians believe Jesus is that predicted Messiah; Jews do not. 

But while that is the primary difference between Judaism and Christianity, it is what follows from that that is most important for our consideration this morning. It is that Christians believe that Jesus established the “new covenant” that the Jewish scriptures predicted. The Jewish Scriptures, what we call the Old Testament, are an unfinished story — that’s evident when you read it. It points to something yet to come.

The Old Testament is, of course, about the old covenant — that describes the arrangement God made with Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham through his grandson, Jacob. The covenant began when God met with the people of Israel at Mount Sinai in the Arabian Peninsula. The covenant was a comprehensive ordering of life around their relationship with God. God called them to be a “holy nation” to represent him in the world. Their temple was to be the place where worship was conducted as God commanded. Their lifestyle was to reflect the holy nature of God. The intent was that the unbelieving nations would be drawn to the living God through his holy nation.

The Old Testament is a story, however, of failure — failure with a ray of hope. During their one thousand years in the land, they kept rebelling against God, defying his law, worshiping false gods. At their lowest point, God cast them out of the land to live in exile under the oppression of the Babylonian Empire. It was right then, when they were brought under the judgment of God, that the prophet Jeremiah revealed that this was not the end that it looked to be. God would bring a new covenant.

That great passage in Jeremiah 31 is quoted in full in the New Testament letter to the Hebrews.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord” (Heb 8.8–9).
So that we would not think that we are just one religion among many;

And so that we would understand the incomparable blessings that we would have in Jesus Christ;

And so that we would stand confidently and lovingly in the world, and appeal to others to join us…

Jeremiah tells us of the new covenant

A Renewed Heart

There are three blessings of the new covenant — every one of these blessings points to the supremacy of the new covenant over the old. Every one is about the advantages we have today over people under the first covenant. Here’s the first: 

In the new covenant, God promises to renew the heart of every member of the covenant.
(Verse 10) “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
The covenant will impart something the old covenant did not provide. 

The covenant established at Mount Sinai was made between God and the physical descendants of Jacob. They were given a sign that indicated that a male child was a part of the covenant community — the sign of circumcision. This was a sign, based on his parent’s faith, that pointed the child to complete devotion to God. The intention was that the child, as he grew up, would do what the sign pointed toward, that is, give himself to God in faith and obedience to the covenant.

But, as you might expect, this did not always happen. Over time, some of Abraham’s descendants who took the covenant sign did not possess the reality. So Israel, the people of God, became a mixed community of believers and unbelievers. This is the “fault” spoken of in the old covenant — the covenant perfectly represented the holiness of God and the rightness of God’s demands on his people. But it did not impart to them the ability to keep the law.

That’s why, on the day when they heard the ten commandments and they promised to obey them, God himself said wistfully, “Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments” (Deut 5.29). The problem was with the heart.

But the new covenant, Jeremiah said, will make up for that defect. This is the promise of regeneration: In calling the members of the new covenant to himself, God would give the new birth to each one. This is what Ezekiel means when he predicted just a little later than Jeremiah:
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36.26–27).
This is why Jesus said to the Jewish leader, Nicodemus, “You must be born again.” Without this birth from God, without God’s quality of life placed within the soul, we are incapable of doing what God commands.

This means that every believer in Jesus Christ possesses this new spirit and new heart. I sometimes describe sin as a “bent” or a “bias” away from God. The new heart reverses that and gives us a “bent” towards God. This doesn’t mean we always obey. But it means we have the ability to obey through the indwelling Spirit — we may at times choose to turn from him and to not rely on him. But deep inside the true believer there is an inclination toward God and his way.

It’s this inclination that we seek to fan into flame in the fellowship of the church. We are told to “stir up one another on to love and good works” (Heb 10.24). Under the old covenant, even for those in the covenant community, exhorting others to obey could be like urging a blind man to look at a mountain or asking a deaf man to listen to a symphony — they did not all possess the faculties for it. But under the new covenant, it is different. The members of the new covenant possess from God the power they need to put his word into action. So, when we meet to encourage one another to live lives of purity and of devotion to God, if we are speaking to those who are “in Christ,” we possess the faculties we need to do it.

That’s the first difference: The new covenant imparts what the old covenant did not — the ability to obey.

A "Personal Relationship" with God

But that’s not all. Jeremiah goes on to describe a second blessing we have under the new covenant:
(Verse 11) “And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.”
This goes back to the “fault” in the old covenant. Since it did not impart the new life, there were full covenant members who did not possess that life. The old covenant virtually guaranteed that some of the members would be unsaved, dead in sins, Christ-rejecting unbelievers — even though they were a legitimate part of the covenant community. Being a physical descendant of Abraham did not guarantee that one was a believing descendant of Abraham (though it was only to believers that the promises were given). The old covenant made it possible for there to be both Ahab’s and Elijah’s… in the same community.

As a result, not everyone who was a member of the covenant community knew God in a saving, personal way under the old covenant. That changes under the new covenant. Because of the new heart and the new spirit — that is the life of God implanted in the soul of each believing person — each believer under the new covenant has a personal relationship with God.

In the new covenant, God promises not only a renewed heart but a personal relationship with God to every member.

Now two things about this:

First, it was not impossible under the old covenant for people to experience a personal relationship with God. Do you see those words, “I will be their God and they shall be my people” (Heb. 8.10)? It must be noted that that same promise is repeated under every covenant between God and people in the Bible — all of the covenants offer a God/people relationship. But under the old covenant it was not a universal experience. 

After all, some of the members were unfaithful to God, some did not believe. The new covenant, however, is going to remedy that problem. Because every covenant member will have the personal, heart-knowledge of God.

Under the old covenant, some of the covenant members did not know the Lord and so they needed to be evangelized and led to faith. Under the new covenant, the hallmark of the believer is that he or she knows the Lord in a saving way.
Now, you might say to me: Wait a minute. In a church, there should be people present who don’t have this personal relationship with God, shouldn’t there? Yes! After all, there will be children growing up who haven’t yet placed their faith in Christ, won’t there. Yes! And there will be people coming in who do not yet possess the life that the gospel offers. Yes! In fact, if the life of God is present in the people, won’t others come who see and want that. Yes!

But, I’m not talking about a local church — I’m talking about the new covenant community. The people of God. This “personal relationship with God” is not simply possible for those who are in the covenant; it is their birthright.

And, second, this passage isn’t saying that under the new covenant there will never need to be teachers. It means no one will have to teach another covenant member to know God in a personal way because that will be universal to all in the covenant.

What is this personal relationship? Well, I would submit that it is, on one level, a familiarity with God — he is our Father, not just the world’s Creator. But it is not simply familiarity, because in making this change, God gives up none of his divine majesty. We still are in relationship with the God of infinite holiness, we still bow in his presence, and acknowledge his right to rule over our lives.

I’ve told the story of the man in a group I led many years ago — he’s here this morning, I won’t embarrass him again. This man came to faith in Christ, and while he shared that with the group a number of months went by and he still hadn’t prayed with the group. And I said one night to the group, “The first time so-and-so prays in our group, I’m going to get up and dance a jig on that table!” And a few months later I did.

Some of you might be thinking, “I thought I might feel uncomfortable in one of these community groups, and now I’m sure of it!” I don’t force people to pray in groups and I knew this man quite well and the group had been together for quite a while and we knew each other well. But one of the values of a healthy small group is that Christians can learn to lift their voices to God in prayer. Why, because we have a personal relationship with God.

The Forgiveness of Sins

So, the blessings of the new covenant are a renewed heart, inclined toward God and his way, AND a personal relationship with God. And finally, Jeremiah says in verse 12:
For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
In the new covenant, God promises the complete and final forgiveness of sins for every covenant member.

There was forgiveness under the old covenant. The sacrificial system, where the worshiper brought an acceptable animal to the priest, and the worshiper laid his hands on the head of the animal in a symbolic transfer of his sins, and the priest offered the animal in sacrifice on the altar… that was the way God designed for them to acknowledge their sin and guilt and to learn that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins,” as it says in Hebrews 9.22. But there are two things we have to note about the old covenant system:

First, forgiveness was provisional — it worked because God accepted it as a temporary sign of the true sacrifice. Even the prophets knew that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins. They looked forward to the blood of the final sacrifice.

Second, forgiveness was typological. That means each sacrifice was a symbol that pointed to a reality. It was a type, a pattern, that could only be fulfilled when what it pointed to came to pass.

And it is the provisional and sign-pointing character of the old covenant that is fulfilled in the new. Turn forward a page to Hebrews 10.11–14:
“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10.11–14).
The new covenant provides what the old covenant only pointed toward: The complete and final forgiveness of sins. For many of us that is the greatest blessing of the new covenant. It is one that we can accept but not completely experience because we carry with us so many wounds, so much pain, and anger, and fear.

But under the new covenant, it belongs to us and we can know it. As we grow, we can taste it ever deeper and deeper as time goes on.

Well, there you have it. The blessings of the new covenant:
  • The new birth — a renewed heart, inclined to obedience;
  • A personal relationship with God;
  • And the assurance of complete and final forgiveness of sins. A forgiveness so complete that God himself will find nothing to hold against us before his throne.

All that a local church is is a new covenant community. A church, proper, is a group of Christ-following people who agree together to be the church in their community. This is the real value of Christian faith.

Are you a part of the new covenant community this morning? Some of you might say, “I don’t know.” Other may say, “No.” It is this new heart, this relationship with God, this forgiveness of sins that are held out in the gospel for the taking. This is what we are given when we turn from sin to Christ and trust in him alone he grants us these three things.

Are you a part of the new covenant community? Many of you will say, “Yes!” Then let me tell you that you are the people of God at the present time. You have the same status before God as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, the prophets, and the apostles.  It is your privilege to know God and to live for his kingdom now and to point people to him and all of his benefits.

A church is simply a new covenant community. That is all we should strive to be today.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Spiritual Faithfulness, Part Three: Renewal (2 Chronicles 15.1-15)

For the last two Sundays, we’ve looked at the lives of two kings in Israel’s history — Solomon, who built the empire and Rehoboam, his son, who split the empire. We’ve looked at the fact that Solomon was a man who combined two contradictory traits: faithfulness to God and compromise of his convictions. I said the first week that when one generation compromises the faith, the next generation abandons it. Solomon compromised the faith; Rehoboam abandoned it for a godless life.

I said that this represents the present state of our culture in the United States. The people of God in the US have been in so many ways like Solomon: Both faithful and compromising. Now we are reaping the consequences. Many are abandoning the faith.

The question I want to answer this morning is, “What must we do about it? How should we respond when we find ourselves in a cultural hurricane of opposition? What should we who call ourselves Christians do when God’s moral rules for life, which at one time were the fabric of our society, are torn and discarded?”

The passage our sister just read to us gives us direction. The end of the story is not abandonment of God. When people abandon God, he does not necessarily abandon them. The reigns of Solomon and Rehoboam were followed (after a brief reign of Rehoboam’s son, Abijah), by the great king, Asa, who renewed the covenant.  

God gives us a some direction here for what we should do in the midst of our cultural desertion of God and the deterioration and stagnation of a culture that goes with it.

Asa, we are told, took the throne at a young age, perhaps as a minor. Yet, the writer of the Chronicles tells us that Asa started his spiritual reforms early in his reign (14.1–5). Then, it seems that he turned to other pressing concerns, especially the military and civic needs of the country. After his first decade on the throne, the Ethiopian army attacked the land but Asa led the nation of Judah to defeat them through reliance on the Lord.  And it is right after that, that the prophet Azariah gives his powerful prophetic exhortation that was read.  

We learn three things in this passage: A principle, a prescription, and a practical application.

First, the principle:

Azariah says to Asa and the nation (v 2):
“Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2Chr 15.2).

The Principle

He gives them a basic principle: If you seek God, you will find God; (and, the opposite,) If you desert God, he will desert you. 

And then he gives an illustration from their history of this principle. It seems that the illustration is from the period of the judges. The book of Judges records a distressing 300+ year period that had ended about 130 years before this point with the appointment of a king. Before there was a king and a central authority, the twelve tribes in the land kept falling into a predictable pattern: They would disobey God, which led to their being harassed by foreign adversaries, which led to them crying out to God, which led to God providing a deliverer, called a “Judge.” So the pattern: DisobedienceŠ harassmentŠ cry for helpŠ military delivererŠ peace.

Azariah describes the period of the judges this way:
“For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, but when in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them.” (2Chr 15.3–4).
Look back he says, at your own history: For a long period of time, you went without the guidance of God and so you wandered away into foolish behaviors which brought destructive consequences. But when you sought God, he saved you.

Let’s state the principle this way:
(Principle) “When we recognize our inability to maintain our spiritual bearings in the midst of cultural opposition, and we turn to God and seek him with our whole heart, he will hear and reveal himself, and pour out the blessings of his covenant.”
Now, you might say, “Are you saying that we’re at fault for the cultural opposition to God? You’ve come up with this church covenant — is that because there’s been something wrong with Grace Church all these years, and now we’re going to make it right?”

That’s a good question — I hoped you would ask that!

The answer is No... and Yes. There are many reasons that we Christians in America, are struggling today to maintain our spiritual balance. After all, there are many ways to respond to cultural opposition.

Out of fear of being different and standing alone, we can withdraw into the “safety” of our little circle of Christian friends and avoid having anything to do with the troubling attitudes and behaviors around us. Many Christians are doing that. They’ve given up on taking a public stand for Jesus Christ. They figure things are too far gone to deal with. And that works, as long as your rallying cry is “We four and no more,” and isn’t “Go, and make disciples of all the nations!” Withdrawal from society is simply not a biblical response to the Lord who prayed on the night before his death that we would be “in the world but not of the world.”

We can cower in fear under the unrelenting pressure of the secular worldview. Many are doing this. It shows up when Christians simply are unwilling to give clear answers to pressing questions. Someone at the water cooler says, “Why would someone oppose gay marriage? How can anyone tell someone they can’t love another person?” And you keep silent. I know. I have a larger family who don’t all agree with what I think. I feel the same pressure to just keep my mouth shut or say, “Well, I don’t know.”

We can backslide, and many are today. They have given up on the Christian life and the church. That’s a dangerous position to be in and it is not the scriptural prescription for what we are facing.

We can get angry and be strident and offensive. We can call people names, ridicule things some people are genuinely struggling with. We can imply that those who live contrary to God’s will aren’t worth as much as those of us who are — as though we’ve forgotten all the ways we flagrantly dishonored God at one time. That’s not the Christian position.

And, many people at Grace have always been seeking to obey God — sometimes we stumble, sometimes our hearts get cold and we feel distant from God. But we come back to him and seek him. But even those of us who have done that for years are struggling with how to respond to the tsunami of opposition to the gospel.

In other words, this principle holds true for us, whether or not we ourselves have wandered away from God, even if we have been and are and want to be faithful to him. The fact is we live in unique times that call for a unique response. So the principle comes to us: “When we recognize our inability to maintain our spiritual bearings in the midst of cultural opposition, and we turn to God and seek him with our whole heart, he will hear and reveal himself, and pour out the blessings of his covenant.”

The Prescription

That’s the principle. And, this principle as expressed by the prophet contains a prescription. It gives us the direction we should take in order to apply the principle, it tells us how to respond. Look at it with me. Verse 4:
“but when in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them” (2Chr 15.4).
There are two parts to the solution to your problem, he says: Turn to the Lord and seek him.

First, he says, you must turn to the Lord.

This ‘turning’ is the essence of repentance. Repentance involves, first, the recognition of a problem — in this case it is that opposition has caused one to shy away from full-hearted devotion to God and his way. It is the recognition of a need for renewed faithfulness, and for a greater commitment and obedience than what has been offered before. And, the image of turning is important: it implies that our focus has subtly been shifted from God to something else — the problem perhaps, or ourselves and our solutions, or even sin. We have to turn back and place our focus again on God. We realize our focus was wrong and turn to God.

Then, he says, seek God. That the second part. You must seek God.

This involves the realization that we must rely on him for strength and wisdom. It implies that we are incapable of solving the problem ourselves. We need God to enlighten and empower us to live for him. We ask him to help us and to guide us.

And this is our prescription as well. We are living in a society that is rapidly running away from God. But God has called us into his kingdom and he instructs us to live as citizens of a kingdom which isn’t yet revealed in the world; he calls us to live as Christians and to be his representatives in the world. Yet our culture’s viewpoint, and values, and behaviors are increasingly out-sync-with the values of the kingdom of God. And we are uncomfortably aware that we are in the middle of kingdoms in conflict. Our position and the world’s position are not compatible. How do we represent God and live openly as his people in such a situation?

Well, Azariah gives the answer: Turn to God and seek him with your whole heart. That’s his word to us today.

The Application

And the passage tells us exactly how they applied this principle and its prescription. This is Asa and Judah’s practical application of the prescription.

First, Asa called for a ‘turning’ from sin: In verse 8, called the people to get rid of the idols and to restore the great altar of burn offering at the temple. To turn to God in their setting required that they turn away from idols. This was just the beginning.  

Then, Asa called for a national meeting for worship. They came in the fifteenth year of his reign, in the third month which is the celebration of Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks. And they worshiped God together. They sacrificed to him in abundance.

And then we are told in verse 12:
“And they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul, but that whoever would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman. They swore an oath to the Lord with a loud voice and with shouting and with trumpets and with horns.” (2Chr 15.12–14).
This is their unique response: they entered into a covenant in verse 12. This was a covenant with one another to renew their covenant with God. They were already in a covenant relationship with God — we call it the Mosaic covenant, begun at Mount Sinai. The problem was that they had not been fully devoted to the covenant. So now they agree with one another that they will uphold the covenant with God; they will return and obey from the heart.

The troubling words in verse 13, that “whoever would not seek the Lord should be put to death” are a recognition that this is what the Mosaic covenant required of them. Deuteronomy 17 says that covenant violators were to be stoned. Please note that this does not apply to us. Today we are under the new covenant established in Christ. The new covenant contains no provision for forcing people to obey. That was part of the time when the people of God were one ethnic group in one nation.

And, in verse 14, they guarantee their commitment by an oath, a vow of obedience to “seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and with all their soul.”

As I have been praying and reading the scriptures and talking to others this last year, I have come to the conclusion that this is what we need to do. We need covenant together to turn to God and seek him with our whole heart. Tonight I’ll explain briefly how I came to see what a ‘church covenant’ is. For now, let me just note to you that the elders are going to give us all fall to ponder this, to understand it, and to decide what to do with it.

What you need to know today is that this that we are proposing to you has grown out of pondering how we need to respond to the cultural situation in which we find ourselves.

We aren’t proposing it because we, as a church, have been particularly unfaithful to God. I don’t believe that’s true. We’re proposing it because we, as a medium-sized local church, live in a nation as a part of the Christian movement that is struggling in many and significant ways
  •  Declining church attendance;
  • Decreased interest in the gospel among the next generation, even those who have grown up in the church.
  • Rampant immorality and greed among church leaders.
  • The rise of large and popular churches which are not standing for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
  • The greatest missionary force in history is faltering. Foreign nations send Christian missionaries to America.
  • We could go on…

For the sake of our church’s integrity AND for the sake of the body of Christ in the United States, we need to determine to live for God.

We need to “turn to God and seek him with all our heart and with all our soul.”

So let’s put this together: What is the end result of this renewed faith, repentance, and mutual commitment to live for God? The text gives us some ideas. We read in verse 15:
"And all Judah rejoiced over the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and had sought him with their whole desire, and he was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around” (2Chr 15.15).
First, “he was found by them.” What significance is packed into those brief words! What they looked for, they found. But how did they know that God heard them?

Well we are told that something happened inside of them — verse 15: “they rejoiced” over the covenant commitment they had made to one another. Why? Because they had desired him above all things and they had made a commitment to his covenant wholeheartedly. And God confirmed it by the way they felt.

Too many of us have a Christian faith that lacks an emotional element. We don’t want our faith to be merely an emotional experience — and we shouldn’t — but in our effort to avoid mere emotion we miss the real emotion God wants us to have: The inward conviction, contentment, and joy he gives us when we seek and find him.

If God delights in us, if he is found by us, he lets us know that. Rather than the fear, or the weariness, or the anger, or the withdrawal, we feel a holy confidence that, regardless of what our culture tells us, God delights in us. This is the emotion they experienced! In seeking God together, they came to know what he wanted them to do — renew the covenant! And when they did, he flooded them with that confidence that he heard and responded.

That’s what God did for them. That’s what God wants to do for us.

There’s another thing the passage points to in terms of what God did for them. He gave them the ability to do what they asked for the strength to do — to live openly for him. Note what follows in verse 16:
“Even Maacah, his mother, King Asa removed from being queen mother because she had made a detestable image for Asherah. Asa cut down her image, crushed it, and burned it at the brook Kidron” (2Chr 15.16).
This isn’t included as an interesting historical note. I believe it’s included as a notable example of what happened as a result of God “being found” by them.

“Queen mother” was not just a title; it was an important position in the ancient world. She was responsible for the royal household, the training of the children who would someday assume the throne and the key positions in the kingdom. Even the king was to respect the Queen mother. To remove such a person was a sign that she had failed so significantly that she could not do what she was supposed to do.

Yet her failure was the very failure that had brought about the problem — she had abandoned the covenant and worshiped false gods. And God so strengthened Asa that he was able even to stand up to his mother, and say, “This commitment applies even to you!”

If that extreme example came to pass, imagine the change in families. Central to the covenant (Old and New!) is the commitment to family — the commitment of parents to turn from sin to God, to commit themselves to loving and to firmly guiding their children in the ways of the Lord; a commitment to not give in every time the children say, “But everyone’s doing it!” It means a commitment to each other in the covenant community to help each other be the kind of parents God calls us to be.

In other words when it says, “and God was found by them,” it means he strengthened them to do the very things they committed themselves to doing.

O, how we need that now. We need God and we need each other if we are going to live in obedience to the new covenant we have in Christ. And it ends with the words, “and the Lord gave them rest all around.” This means many things, but certainly it means that the chaos of their cultural apostasy from God and his ways was to some degree lightened. I don’t think it necessarily means there was no more trouble from those who were unfaithful to God. It means, for those who made this commitment, they found themselves mysteriously able to withstand the onslaught — through the delight of God and the mutual help of each other.

That, I believe, is what God calls us today; to commit ourselves to one another to live for God. To turn to God and to seek him with our whole heart.

We’re going to spend the fall considering what that can look like. 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Spiritual Faithfulness, Part Two: Abandonment (1 Kings 12.1-20)

We live in a culture that is in rebellion against God. That is my message to you this morning. You and I live in a culture that is in rebellion against God, and the most important issue for us as Christians is to determine how God wants us to respond to that fact.

Not every person is in rebellion, but most;
Not every institution of society, but most;
Not every church, though there are many in rebellion today. 

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was the most famous Russian novelist of the last century. He was born in 1918 and spent his childhood at the time of the Communist Revolution. He grew up to write eight soul-shaking novels that exposed the evils of the Communist system to the core. When he won the Templeton Prize in 1983, he said this in his acceptance speech:
“More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened. Since then I have spent well-nigh fifty years working on the history of our Revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books, collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the main cause of the ruinous Revolution that swallowed up some sixty millions of our people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened."
People have forgotten God. This morning I am not so much trying to convince you that that is now true in the America as I am to show what happens when people abandon God.

We are considering four key generations in the history of God’s people in the Old Testament. I noted last week that they illustrate a commonly recurring theme in the Bible. A cycle, so to speak, with a predictable pattern. What happens when faithful people compromise the faith? When one generation compromises, the next generation abandons all pretense of godliness. Solomon compromised (last week), Rehoboam abandoned God and the covenant (that’s today).

As I said last week, King Solomon was characterized by two contradictory traits: He was a model of (on one hand) genuine, heartfelt faithfulness. And, at the same time, he was willing to compromise the faith at many key points in his life. I said last week that compromise of the faith in one generation leads to abandonment in the next, and here is our prime example from Scripture of that fact.

What happens when people abandon God? Scripture shows us three things that happen.

The first thing that happens when people abandon God is that they abandon each other. When God is forgotten, everyone is forgotten.

This comes about in the passage I read to you when the tribes of the northern kingdom say, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David!” (1Kgs 12.16).
The words, “What portion do we have in David?,” is rather ominous — David was the “man after God’s own heart,” the king promised an eternal dynasty. In those words they were throwing away the promises of God and the blessings of his covenant.

But they were also breaking ancient relationships that had endured for nearly a thousand years at this point. The tribes were all descendants of Jacob whom God re-named Israel—they were the sons (or people) of Israel. And at this point, they are willing to break those ancient ties and all of the shared history.

Now it is true that the division of the kingdom went back to ancient rivalries even between the brothers themselves in the book of Genesis. And it is true that in Solomon’s empire-building efforts he had aggressively taxed that nation and demanded forced labor from the tribes. And it is true that Rehoboam’s assertion that he was going to continue his father’s heavy-handed practices made the breakup seem inevitable.

But that all came about because they abandoned God—they forgot God, they made no place for him in their lives—and the first consequence is that they abandoned each other.

But isn’t it that very thing that we see taking place in our culture, in our time? As we slip farther and farther from God, isn’t exactly this breakup of society what we are experiencing?

Alexander Hamilton called America the “grand experiment.” What he meant is that societies have in history been formed around racial, ethnic, and religious lines. We still see that most clearly in places like China where 92% of the people are ethni­cally Han Chinese. When America started, the idea was that, rather than using racial, religious, and ethnic uniformity to identify a country, a diverse society could be formed around something different: the ideas of liberty and equality. So, the basic idea was, you could have northern and southern Europeans, Asians, Africans, and Arabs all in one society—a melting pot, in which what formed the bonds was not agreement on those things but a common belief in equality and freedom… and in the Creator God. That is often left out. I’ve never been very impressed with the Christian credentials of many of the founding fathers—after all, people forget that the only truly, self-identified non-Christian among all forty-five Presidents was the third! Thomas Jefferson was not a Christian!

But they did believe in our accountability to the Creator. And that, along with ideas of liberty and equality, defined the “grand experiment.”  

That has largely been abandoned today. Today the original vision of freedom has been replaced by a radical kind of freedom that allows each one to think and feel for himself with no reference to society. Now we are identified by groups: racial, political, religious, now sexual—and each group is considered to have its own needs, views, and demands on the society and government. We ‘Evangelicals’ (an undefined term) are only seen as important in our being one of many competing voting blocks.

With no common focus, a society disintegrates. That’s what we’re experiencing as each group asserts its own rights and demands.

The first thing that happens when people abandon God is that they abandon each other.

Now that’s not all. Solzhenitsyn said, “People have forgotten God.” And that’s my thesis this morning: We live in culture that has forgotten God as the authoritative center of life and, when that happens, people don’t only abandon each other but they abandon good judgment. They abandon common sense.

We see this so clearly in the life of Rehoboam. There are so many examples, but let me draw your attention to one. 

In the fifth year of his reign, because he abandoned the Lord, the king of Egypt came and plundered the temple and the royal treasury. That should have been an occasion for the king to call a national day of mourning and repentance, to plead with God to restore them to his covenant blessings. Instead, what does Rehoboam do, when the Egyptians take all the golden shields with which Solomon had adorned the temple.
“King Rehoboam made in their place shields of bronze, and committed them to the hands of the officers of the guard, who kept the door of the king's house. And as often as the king went into the house of the Lord, the guard carried them and brought them back to the guardroom” (1Kgs 14.27–28).
What a pathetic image. God had appointed Israel to be the means of blessing to the world; but when it began to decline, which was a sign of God’s displeasure that they were abandoning him, Rehoboam settled for the appearance of greatness, rather than reality.
Isn’t that exactly what you and I see happening every day? Isn’t appearance put over reality again and again? That’s what happens when people forget God, when they abandon him, when they pretend they can make life work on their own.

Today, there is so much talk about people self-identity. There’s a great belief that your identity is whatever you make it. That race, gender, so forth, are just made up ideas. So Facebook, I understand, has some fifty ways of identifying your gender.

Now I don’t want to make complex and distressing social questions overly easy. And I don’t want to be glib about things that people are really struggling with… however, some things defy common sense. We can’t allow feelings to reign supreme. God has made us what we are—male, female, black, white, brown. We have to deal with these realities. But No, we are told, feelings reign supreme.  

If a woman’s heritage is purely Northern European, but she feels like a Native American, shouldn’t she be allowed to be treated as one? Well, should she receive a free college education because that is a right some of the States extend to the first nations' people in our country? And how many people who hear about her will also begin to feel like Native Americans?

If a man feels like he is really a thirteen year old boy who never grew up, will we allow him to be with underage girls and not consider it a crime because, after all, he identifies as a thirteen year old?

And you say, “Well, that’s just silly.” And I agree every one of my illustrations are silly because in each case there is a reality—whether its genealogical table showing the woman’s heritage or birth certificate proving the man’s age. The point is we can’t conduct a society in which people can simply self-identify at any point. It has its limits.

But our society seems to have no limits to either freedom or equality. They are being carried to their extremes unchecked by either a Creator-God or by notions of community, society that they are meant to build.

And lastly, when people abandon God, they not only abandon each other, and good judgment, they also abandon worship. When people forget God, they forget worship.

For three years we are told, many people came from the North who wanted to maintain the covenant God had established with their fathers. During that time, Rehoboam didn’t show his true colors. But in the fourth year he let loose. And what happened when he abandoned all pretense of faith in the Lord is recorded in 1 Kings 14.21–25:
“Now Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city that the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. His mother's name was Naamah the Ammonite. And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. For they also built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel” (1 Kings 14. 21–25).
As G. K. Chesterton once said, “When people cease to believe in God, the problem is not that they believe nothing, the problem is that they’ll believe anything.” Anything!

So Israel, the apple of God’s eye, the kingdom of priests, the holy nation who were meant to bless the whole world by their obedience, turned to the gods of the nations. They abandoned the temple and the priesthood, they forgot the law that was meant to guide their lives to the glory of God, and they wallowed in whatever the world had to offer.

Isn’t that what we see today? The media gives this a positive spin: “People are less religious today but more spiritual” we are told. The problem with that sentence is that religion is a group identity — “I meet with others to worship God.” Spirituality is a self-identity, “I feel like a spiritual person.”
The church of Jesus Christ is a community — we meet together to worship God, to call upon him, to hear his word, to seek to frame our lives together according to his design. It is not simply one of many different ways to feel “spiritual.”

As a young Christian I was taught that non-Christians can’t worship, after all they are not in a right relationship with God. So if we want to attract people to Christ, we need to conduct meetings in which they see and hear things — music performed by others up front, dramas and videos that speak to them. After all, how can you ask people to mouth words they don’t mean? And that made sense to me.  

But my thoughts changed through the years as I read the psalms. There are so many places in the psalms where it says things like:
Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! (Psalm 117.1)
God calls all people to worship him! The duty of all human beings is to give to God that glory and honor that he deserves as the Creator and Ruler of the universe. And it is only in seeking to fulfill our responsibility to God that we can come to see how far short we fall from his ways; then we can see him as our Redeemer as well as our Creator.

But when people forget God, they forget that as people they are responsible to God. They create their own ways of thinking and feeling and acting that are farther and farther away from what he has revealed in his word.

And why is all this happening? “I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”

When people abandon God, they abandon each other.
When people abandon God, they abandon good judgment.
When people abandon God, they abandon worship.

That’s where you and I are today. That’s the culture we live in.

The question, however, is what to do about it. What should our response be to this reality? We’re going to spend next week and then the rest of the fall thinking about how we, as Christians, should respond to the reality of our culture.

May I tell you where the answer will not be found?

The answer isn’t found in the past and in trying to recreate some wonderful time when America was great. If the Bible is any guide, God is not all that concerned with the greatness of America; he is concerned for his glory through his people first and foremost.

The answer won’t be found in armed revolution against the government, though we may hear more about that. That’s not for Christians.

It can’t involve a reliance on political power, as if we could use our voting block to sway the direction of the country—I don’t mean we shouldn’t vote; only that we can’t see that as our response to the reality of the times.

Next week we’ll look at the answer.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Spiritual Faithfulness, Part One: Compromise (1 Kings 3.1-3)

Through the years here at Grace Church, we’ve developed a strategy that we use as a part of our discipleship. It is an effort to involve those who are in our high school ministry —called Impact—in a three-tiered series of ministry trips as they go through high school. The last is a “foreign-soil” trip in which they are expected to present the gospel to people in another country through things like simply sharing their own faith-story, or participating in a drama that displays the gospel, or leading a group of children in Bible stories and singing… and so forth.

Often, after the trip, we have a presentation on a Sunday morning in which the various stu­dents share their experiences and what they learned. Those are often very moving events in the life of our church.
A few years ago, after one such Sunday—a Sunday in which a number of high school sen­iors shared what they felt were life-changing, future-altering experiences— I remember  having two different adults speak to me after the service about the morning’s theme.

The first one said, “I think that was just great, hearing those students share. I never had the opportunity to do anything like that because I didn’t grow up in a church that even thought about that. It really makes me want to live for God!”

The second one, completely unconnected to the first one, said, “You know, I remember having an experience like that in high school. It meant a lot at the time but it was just a flash in the pan—that’s what it will be like for a lot of these teens, too. Sometimes I think we spend too much money and make too big a deal out of that kind of thing. I felt really excited about God as a teenager but life isn’t like that. As I went on in life, marriage and job and children and responsibilities and pressures all sucked it out of me. I still believe in Jesus but I don’t think that excitement means anything.”

Well, which one is it? Is the initial excitement of youth and encouragement or is it a reminder that “life’s just not like that?” Are the experiences we offer young people giving them some tools to work with in the future or just an expensive way to let them be in a foreign coun­try?

I want to talk for the next three weeks about what spiritual faithfulness looks like. We’re going to look at a common, three-step theme that seems to be shown a number of times in the Bible.
  •         This week King Solomon — we’ll talked about spiritual compromise.
  •          Next week Rehoboam, Solomon’s son — spiritual abandonment.
  •         On our anniversary Sunday, King Asa, Rehoboam’s grandson — spiritual renewal.

This morning, I want to show you that Solomon is a pattern of many people’s spiritual experience. He sets in motion the three-part picture of compromise, abandonment, and renewal. Those are not necessarily generational. They don’t always show up in three gen­erations, though in scripture they seem to frequently do so. But, one thing I can say, the pattern always starts when faithful people compromise their faith.

Solomon’s story tells us that it is possible to have two different qualities mixed in one person—faithfulness and compromise. We’ll talk first about faithfulness and second about the compromise.

When follow Christ out of love for God, we can experience his presence and display his power, and show others what faithfulness to God looks like. 

Solomon was the famous son of king David, the king to whom God promised a lasting dyn­asty—a series of kings among his descendants who would sit on the throne of Israel until a final descendant, the Messiah, would reign. The Solomon was the beginning fulfillment of that promise.

In chapter one of First Kings, David designates Solomon as his successor. In chapter two, because of some questions about his right to the throne, Solomon consolidates his king­dom. Then, the story of Solomon’s reign begins in earnest with these words:
“Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father.” (1Kgs 3.3)
That character-defining statement is the basis on which Solomon is presented to us as a model of spiritual faithfulness. From that point on, and for years to come, Solomon will as a part of his character, be displayed as a man who wanted to serve God.

Now, how did that show up?

Well, immediately we read that Solomon, in a time of worship, asked God for wisdom to lead the nation. And the Lord responds by saying, “I am so impressed that the first thing you would ask for is wisdom, rather than money or political power that I’m going to give you all three.
We’re given three examples of his wisdom:

First, two women come to him, each claiming to be the mother of a baby. Solomon says, “I’ll tell you what: just cut the baby in half you can each have half. And the one woman, thinking he’s playing some game figures she’ll call his bluff and says, “Go for it.” But the true mother, moved with compassion for her son says, “No. Give him to the other woman!” And Solomon says, “There’s the mother.” That story is such a famous event that two weeks ago in a completely secular setting a man described an event to me with the words, “Well, what she did was split the baby.”

Second, we read of his administration of his kingdom. He wisely establishes dis­tricts, appoints and trains leaders, to maximize stability and safety in the nation.

As a final demonstration of the wisdom of Solomon, he writes and organizes prov­erbs, he studies trees and animals and birds and lists their characteristics. And he becomes fabulously wealthy, using his wealth to show the grandeur of the kingdom God had created.

Solomon’s zeal for God results in the writer of 1 Kings saying,
"Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy. Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life." (1 Kgs 4.20–21).
Those two sentences are drawn from the promises to Abraham. Numerous people, vast territory. Blessings for the nations. These are words used of the Messiah in the Old Tes­tament and what he will accomplish.

Solomon’s greatest achievement was to build the temple. He built the temple to honor God and, at its dedication, God came in power to visit his people. He was the exemplar of what the Messiah will be. That’s how Solomon is remembered… in part: An example of what it looks like for a person to love God and to bring him honor.

That’s how many people start out in the Christian life. And, not all but a lot of you have kept on going for many years.

One of the responsibilities of a local church is to prayerfully seek to disciple the young peo­ple who are growing up in the families of the church. Now, it’s not the sole or even the primary responsibility of a church to disciple the children—that is the primary responsi­bility of Christian parents. But it is the task of a church to supplement what the parents are seeking to do in the hearts of their children. And, of course, as a church ministers it will draw in children who come from homes where their parents are not aware of their spiritual responsibilities or not concerned for them. In that case, we as a church family become the spiritual parents.

And, if you are a young person or you have children in your home, you should know that one of our aims—the kind of thing our whole staff team prays for regularly on Wednesdays —is to capture the hearts of your children for God by giving them opportunities to serve and to love him. Especially those in senior high: We want to give you a taste of what serving God in life can be like. We want you to feel that serving God is the greatest thing you could ever do—I don’t mean we’re trying to get you all to be missionaries or church leaders, I mean that above whatever you do in life, however you make a living, you will want to live for God. It’s like the man who discipled me in college said to me when I was nineteen years old, “College will teach you how to make a living; only God can teach you how to live!

But I have to give you one word of qualification—kind of a warning. Let me do it with an illustration.

My wife and have a daughter named Emily. She’s the eldest and lives near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. She married a man named Jason. Since she met him after she went to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, we don’t know him well. A couple of years ago they invited us to go to Las Vegas—Jason loves to go to Las Vegas and go hik­ing and sightseeing, and mostly, to eat. Jason is a foodie.

I’m not a foodie. I never wanted to go to Las Vegas but I wanted to be with Emily and Jason so we went. There was one restaurant Jason really looked forward to—a Gordon Ramsey restaurant. For two days before Jason talked about what he was going to each at this restaurant.
I have never thought about what I am going to eat at a restaurant before looking at the menu and even then I want to expend as few brain cells as possi­ble on the exercise. I said to Laura, ‘Emily’s married a nut!’ She was not amused.

So we go to this restaurant and I decided I’m going to get what Jason gets. It was Beef Wellington. I figured from the name it was beef and well-done which sounds good to me. And, oh my, I have never tasted anything like that before. A pastry lined with some kind of mushroom paste covering a perfectly cooked piece of filet mignon. It just melted in my mouth. I said, “Oh, this is what good food tastes like.” I want to spend the rest of my life getting that taste again.
That’s a silly story, though partly true. My wife is a great cook so I’ve never wondered what good food tastes like. But here’s what I’m trying to say: We want to give you a taste of God that is beyond your expectations—that’s why we have people apply, that’s why we spend months preparing you, not only in terms of the work you’ll do but more importantly in terms of the spiritual and relational qualities you’ll need.

But we know that a ministry trip is not what life is like. And we know that every day is not moving from one spiritual and relational high to the next. We don’t want anyone to think that the Christian life, or loving and serving Jesus is about having that experience every day, any more than I think Beef Wellington is all the good food is.

But we want you to have a taste of the real thing—not a hyped up, loud-music event, but a real opportunity to work with others out of love for God to do something of value.

That’s one thing Solomon’s life demonstrates: We can follow Christ out of love for God, and we can experience his presence and display his power, and show what faithful­ness to God looks like.

But there’s another side to Solomon, a darker side. This pattern also can be our experience if we’re not careful.
“…when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father.” (1Kgs 11.4)
As Solomon aged, he compromised his faith and worshiped other gods.

It is possible as we go through life to grow complacent, to become indifferent or, at least, to stop earnestly seeking to serve God, and to compromise what we once found so valuable. We may mix compromise into our faithfulness.  

Now the words of 1 Kings 11 say that this happened when he was old but we need to be care­ful here. What it means is that when he was older he began to worship other gods along with the Lord. The passage goes to list them in disturbing detail. But it doesn’t mean that it was only when he was old that he compromised. Not at all! Compromise—along with faithful­ness—seems to have been built into Solomon’s whole life-experience from the begin­ning. It’s not that all of a sudden he began to do wrong things; it’s that sprinkled throughout his life and along with his zeal and love for God, there was a distressing number of unwise choices that he made — it was only at the end that it caught up with him. His life was not faithfulness early, compromise late; it was faithfulness mixed with compromise through­out.

Let me show you what I mean.

Like much of the Old Testament, the writer doesn’t always comment about events that he records. Many things are recorded that the reader is meant to evaluate for himself  or herself by what has come before, especially in the law of Moses.

In chapter three, right before it says, “Solomon loved the Lord,” it says, “Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharoah king of Egypt” an alliance in which Solomon received Pharoah’s daughter as a wife. This was a clear violation of the law, a compromise.

In the same chapter it says, “The people were still sacrificing at the high places, how­ever, because no house had yet been built for the name of the Lord.” (1Kgs 3.2) Moses said that God would indicate a central place of worship which became Jerusalem in David’s time. The temple wasn’t built yet — while that didn’t excuse worship in the high places (meaning the pagan shrines in the area) it at least explained it. But the passage goes on to say, “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father, only he sacrificed and made offerings at the high places (1Kgs 3.3). Compromise!

There are many statements without any comment that tell us how much he compromised:

He accumulated horses, multiplied wives, and amassed great wealth, even though Moses said in Deuteronomy 17 that the king was not to do that because he would plun­der the land to satisfy his growing appetite for noticeable greatness.

Solomon spent more time building his house that he did building the temple in chapter six (6.38)

And, after he dedicated the temple and God came with power, he ignored the warnings God gave him. (9.4–9)

And, finally, he worshiped Lord… along with other gods (11.1–8), the violation of the first and most important commandment.

Like that, we can faithfully love and serve God but at the key points of life make compro­mises that will hurt us in the end.

A few years ago a woman with three small children began to attend the church. She came to meet with me and regretfully remembered her high school experience in a youth group in Alabama. But later, she made some poor choices and married a man who was in many ways a good man but he was not a Christian. Now, her children were entering school and she wanted them to experience what she had in her youth even though her life felt so empty now.

I remember a man who loved God but as he got married and had a family he began to place a priority on his work. He chased the next position and the next raise, saying it would help his family to be comfortable. But his wife left him and his children grew up to not really want to be around him. He still came to church every Sunday but not much more.

And I remember the woman who loved God but as she raised her children she compro­mised at every single difficult point—raising children is hard and there are points when you have a grit your teeth and let your children make a wrong decision and taste the consequences. But there are also times, a lot of times, when you have to hitch up your belt and say, “No. Not now. Not here.” But she wouldn’t… ever.  And she lost every one of those children to the world without a spark of spiritual interest.

The spiritual life is not an experience in high school… or college…  or later!  that lasts for­ever and keeps you free from problems. The Christian life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.

The message of Solomon’s life is that it’s possible to have faith and have spiritual compro­mise at the same time. And the results will not be pretty.

Let me leave you with one thought:

It seems that one of the things the kings teach us, at least from Solomon’s life, is that when we compromise, it is the next generation that suffers.

Solomon was one of those who drew from the well of his father’s faith but didn’t dig his own well.

Solomon never abandoned God—even the most damning statement about him is that “his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kgs 11.4). It doesn’t say he was not true… but not completely true to God.

Even at his worst, he didn’t abandon God, he added other gods.

That’s not much comfort but it’s clear in the text. When Christians compromise, the next generation suffers.

And next week we’ll see the full result in the lives of Rehoboam and Jeroboam.