Such An Insult

The writer of Hebrews issued a 13-chapter warning to the Church not to fall away in the midst of immense pressure, hardship, and persecution. Instead, and despite the difficulty, the writer in chapter 10 challenged the Christian with five “let us” statements that represent our reasonable response to the living way Jesus provided through his blood. Because of what Jesus did, we should (a) draw near to God, (b) hold unswerving to our hope, (c) spur one another on to love and good works, (d) continue meeting together, and (e) encourage one another all the more as we see the day of his return approaching (Hebrews 10:19-25).

The staggering next verse states, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left” (v. 26).  In fact, the Scripture says that to do so is to insult the Spirit of grace. The Word teaches that the Spirit of God can be grieved, quenched, resisted, and even blasphemed. Hebrews 10 tells us He can also be insulted which means to scorn, outrage, or show contempt for the Holy Spirit. The Message rendering is quite blunt and graphic: “…what do you think will happen if you turn on God’s Son, spit on the sacrifice that made you whole, and insult this most gracious Spirit?” (v. 29). The question is, what sin is the writer talking about that insults the Spirit of grace? The rule of context tells us that the sin is drawing back on Christ demonstrated by the failure to keep the “let us” statements just mentioned in the chapter, including the mandate to continue gathering.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a serious toll on our nation in terms of lives lost, businesses destroyed, schools in confusion, and churches weakened or shuttered. It’s not a stretch to believe that the virus is an instrument of the evil one to undermine our economy, weaken our nation, destroy lives, and marginalize the Church. Christians, however, should be honest  and admit that the exhortation of Hebrews does not contain a footnote or asterisk whereby we can set aside the “let us” statements during a crisis. The recipients of the letter to the Hebrews literally took their lives into their own hands by associating with Jesus or going to or from a meeting. Plainly stated, to refuse to gather together is a direct violation of this command and it is such an insult to the Holy Spirit to do so. Despite this truth, researchers are predicting that up to 25 percent of previous church attenders are not attending now and will not return to church as a result of COVID-19.

Some Christians are insulting the Spirt of grace because church leaders have decided not to meet. Some Christians are insulting the Spirit of grace because of what a public health official has said. Some Christians are insulting the Spirit of grace because of what a politician has said. Some Christians are insulting the Spirit of grace because of fear. Some Christians are insulting the Spirit of grace under the guise of Christian charity claiming that to not meet shows love and compassion for their neighbor when in reality, real love is obeying the commands of Christ (John 14:15). The problem is that none of these voices represent the voice of the Lord Jesus Christ through the Word of God that states do not stop coming to church. What’s amazing is the same Christian who will not come to church for COVID-19 has no problem stepping out to go to work, a home supply store, grocery store, restaurant, or to get their kids to school. Apparently, COVID-19 is extremely smart and particularly antagonistic to those who attend church.

Obviously, if you have been infected, are quarantined, are otherwise ill or vulnerable, you should avoid such a group gathering. On the other hand, if you’ve just become lazy opting to watch church online, gotten out of the habit of coming to church, or you are listening to an unbiblical voice telling you to stay away, you need to stop insulting the Spirit of grace, repent, and return to your local church. If your local church is not following the clear commands of Scripture, you need to find a church that will. Make the quality decision today based on what Jesus has done for you to honor God’s Word even in this tough and challenging season. The Scripture says God will honor those who honor him (1 Samuel 2:30).

The Know-A-Lot-A

Better Late Than Never is a hilarious “reality” television show chronicling the travels and antics of celebrities William Shatner, George Foreman, Henry Winkler, Terry Bradshaw, and funny man Jeff Dye.  In a recent episode, the group gave William Shatner a hard time for seemingly knowing everything about everything.  Winkler called Shatner a know-it-all.  Shatner replied laughing, “I’m not a know-it-all…I’m a know-a-lot-a.”

The laugh out loud moment underscores an important principle for our lives, especially our spiritual growth.  Too many believers, as they grow up in the faith, begin to act just like adolescents knowing everything and no longer respecting and receiving from the adults entrusted with their care and development.  They sound a lot like a know-it-all forgetting that being correctable and teachable are keys to breaking out of adolescence to become a steady, mature, and productive adult in the faith. The day we stop receiving is the day we stop growing.

It reminds me of a man in the Bible named Gehazi.  Gehazi was the servant of the prophet Elisha who was the servant of the prophet Elijah.  Elisha followed and learned from his mentor Elijah and received a double-portion of his anointing.  Elisha would go on to do great things just like his father in the faith Elijah.  But somewhere along the way of Gehazi’s training and development, he began to reject Elisha’s influence, guidance, and instruction.  The day Naaman was healed of leprosy, Gehazi wanted to receive a reward from the Assyrian general, but Elisha made it plain this was not a time to do so.  Gehazi rejected the counsel of Elisha, took the goods and money from Naaman, and instead of enjoying an even greater anointing and ministry, became leprous himself.  His future, his life, and his call were all compromised because he developed an unteachable spirit.

As growing believers, we should get to the place where we know a lot, but we should never get to the point where we know it all treating our fathers and mentors in the faith with contempt, and ignoring their counsel.  I have found in working with hundreds of young converts and disciples over the years, the most dangerous stage of the seven stages of spiritual growth (newborn, infant, child, adolescent, young adult, adult, and senior adult) is the adolescent stage.  Newborns need the milk of the Word, infants need great mercy and grace as they attempt to walk, children need strong doctrine to protect them from deception, adolescents need humility, young adults need faithfulness, adults need balance, and senior adults need to stay in the game.  Like Gehazi, if a believer is going to wash out, they most often wash out at the adolescent level becoming stiff-necked and uncorrectable. Ironically, most adolescents don’t even discern that they are in fact adolescents in the faith.

Make up your mind you’re going to continue to grow at every stage and level of your spiritual development.  Continue to learn, be used of God, and follow his path for your life, but do not allow yourself to become a could have been man or woman of God like Gehazi disqualified because you traded in your destiny for an adolescent chip on your shoulder.   A few years back, a great man of God called his sons in the faith to a special meeting to correct certain doctrinal and behavioral issues in those that counted him as a spiritual father.  One man refused to attend the meeting saying simply, “Let him teach what he wants and I’ll teach what I want.”  You don’t hear much from that man these days for it seems his upward trajectory was compromised by his know-it-all attitude and disrespect for the man of God.  Stay humble, teachable, gracious, and respectful.  Become that know-a-lot-a without becoming a know-it-all.

Kiss the Frog

“Then the LORD said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh once again and tell him, This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. If you refuse, then listen carefully to this: I will send vast hordes of frogs across your entire land from one border to the other. The Nile River will swarm with them. They will come up out of the river and into your houses, even into your bedrooms and onto your beds! Every home in Egypt will be filled with them. They will fill even your ovens and your kneading bowls. You and your people will be overwhelmed by frogs!” (Exodus 8:1-4, NLT).

It’s always amazed me that even with the clear revelation of God’s will to Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt, to let God’s people go, he just continued to defy the Lord despite grave consequences to his nation, his people, and even his own household. One aspect of God’s judgment on Egypt for the oppression of Israel and Pharaoh’s hard heart illustrates the folly of disobeying the Most High God – the time the frogs (lots and lots of them) came to live with Pharaoh and the people of Egypt.

The Lord told Moses to command Pharaoh to release the people of God so that they could worship Him. If he refused Aaron was to stretch out his hand with his staff over the streams, canals, and ponds and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt. Sure enough, the frogs showed up in the palace, bedrooms, houses, on the people, in the ovens, and in the kneading troughs (the vessel where the mixed and leavened bread was left to swell or ferment – they had a little extra protein in their bread) of the Egyptian people. Just imagine all those slimy, squishy, bug-eyed critters getting into everything – and they were the invited guests of the Pharaoh (God only knows what we invite into our lives through our own obstinate attitude).

Despite the fact that the Egyptian magicians “seemingly” duplicated the whole frog routine, Pharaoh pleaded with Moses and Aaron to take the frogs away from the people with a promise to let them go make sacrifices to the Lord if they did. The stunning development in this story is the fact that Moses gave Pharaoh the option of when the frogs would leave. Amazingly Pharaoh simply said, “tomorrow.” What? You like sleeping with frogs, watching them do the backstroke in your bathtubs, and finding them in your cabinets? Ok, Moses said. “It will be as YOU SAY so that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.” The frogs will leave and will remain only in the Nile.

Of course after the frogs departed, Pharaoh hardened his heart again and reneged on his promise (as usual). But what is simply unbelievable is that anyone under any circumstances would allow the fruit of disobedience and rebellion to hang around another second (let alone another night). When the beady eyes on the pillow next to you remind you of your refusal to listen to God the time to act is now rather than saying smugly, “oh, tomorrow.” This is strange logic to put it mildly. It’s like saying we want deliverance and freedom, but maybe tomorrow or maybe next week. No, the time to put away the consequences and devastation of disobedience is now.

For many Christians today, the same principles apply. Not only are many not following God’s will for their lives choosing instead to pursue ease, money, worldly pleasures, etc., they don’t even bother asking the Lord for his counsel on the major life-changing decisions we all have from time to time. It appears on one hand that the decisions are fine, but under the surface you find frogs in the bed, frogs in the stove, frogs in the refrigerator, frogs in toilet, frogs everywhere! The invading frog is a symbol of the results of self-directed living and a failure to conform to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Some folks are so used to sleeping with the frogs they seem to move in slow motion back into obedience to God. Their motto could be, “just one more night with frogs.” As with Egypt, we tend to downplay the possible effects of our rebellion and eventually we too are overwhelmed by the frogs (consequences).

At some point we need to wake up to the reality that the best way to live is to live in the center of God’s will. When we do, just like Pharoah, we’re going to have to face the problems we initiated while we camped out in the outback of disobedience (seedtime and harvest). As the frogs died they were piled into heaps “and the land reeked of them.” Our lives may put off a stench (the smell of rebellion) as well as we are getting things back in order with the Lord, but with that repentance and obedience we will eventually see peace, victory, freedom, provision, and no frogs!

Remember the words of the Apostle Paul, “I tell you now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). Unlike clueless Pharaoh, don’t choose to wait another day to get right with God. Keep in mind that you are the deciding factor determining when the frogs (bondage, affliction, addiction, consequences) will leave your life. The frogs will leave when you say (just like Pharaoh). I want to encourage you to say the words and be free. It’s time to kiss the frog…goodbye.