Why Nobody Preaches “Be Like Samson”

For the last few days I have been reading the book of Judges, and I have particularly been thinking about the life of Samson. Although Samson often stirs up images that are more like the cover of a romance novel than a Bible character, it is the tragedy of a life thrown away that draws me in.

Even before his birth, expectations were high for Samson. His mother and father were visited by the angel of the Lord and told that their son would be used by God, but that they needed to raise him as one under the vows of a Nazirite. Normally, a person took on this vow for short while, but Manoah and his wife were told that this would be a lifelong commitment that he would need to make. No eating of any products derived from grapes—wine, juice, raisins, or even the grape itself. Along with this, Samson was not to cut his hair- ever. All of these things, in addition to the normal restrictions placed upon the Jewish people, were meant to demonstrate that Samson was set apart for a special purpose by God. Samson would be a sort of redeemer for his people, helping to free them from the oppression of their enemies the Philistines.

The problem was that Samson himself was not free. He may have had supernatural strength, but he was enslaved to his lusts. He may have been able to overpower a gang of men, but he couldn’t win victory over himself. He was his own worst enemy. Following the short life of this man, it quickly becomes apparent that when Samson sees something he wants, he will do whatever it takes to get it. He repeats a refrain that is seen often throughout the book of Judges, and he personalizes it-every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

It was not simply the cutting of his hair that caused this mighty warrior to fall. It was his lust for women, his raging anger, his disdain for purity-both ritual and spiritual, and his selfish drive to please himself. All of these came crashing down upon him like the building that took his life. Even Samson’s final (and only) prayer to God was laced with astonishing selfishness. This is the tragic result for not only Samson but for any of us that choose the foolish path of “following our heart.” Don’t do it. To follow your own heart is like cutting off the rudder on a ship and allowing the wind to blow the sails in whatever direction it gusts. A sailor that follows that practice will end up shipwrecked or lost at sea.

I’m not writing as one who has never followed his own heart. On the contrary, I have all too much experience in living the same way that Samson lived. I seek my counsel, and I go my own way. But it doesn’t take long before the initial satisfaction of my selfishness wears off and my foolishness reveals painful consequences. The only comfort and solution that I have found for avoiding this is to sail by a north star that is not within my own heart. The Bible gives me the wisdom and counsel that I need, not what I want. It speaks truth to my stubborn and deceptive heart. It points out the painful consequences and it shows me the true joy that can come if I will only trust the One who loves me more than I even love myself.

Samson’s life ended in tragedy, but my life won’t. My compass is set by Jesus Christ, and He will bring me home. I may put aside the compass now and then in my foolishness, but in the end, Christ will bring me into my heavenly port.

If you’d like to read about Samson for yourself, his story can be read in Judges chapters 13-16.

Preaching to Be Forgotten and For God to Be Glorified (weekend repost)

What did Paul mean when he wrote of his “weakness…in fear and much trembling?” Clearly, Paul was connecting his preaching to these things (“…my speech and my message…”). I think that Paul’s words here are a much-needed correction to the celebrity culture within the Western church today.

The Apostle to the Gentiles stood before this church in Corinth as a weak man. He did not have the polish and trappings that the false teachers of Corinth had, and to many, this was a severe disadvantage. Although they might not say it this way, there are many who would imply strongly that the message is secondary to the method. If you don’t have a media empire pushing your message, then the world won’t listen and you’ll be ineffective. I wonder how Paul would have responded to that sort of thinking. Well, we don’t have to wonder because his Spirit-inspired words are given to us.

Read the full post here: Preaching to Be Forgotten and For God to Be Glorified

Rejoicing After God’s Discipline

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:1–5, ESV)

Beautiful sculptures like Michelangelo’s “David” or “Pieta” which look like living marble. When asked how he did it, said that he simply chiseled away everything that didn’t look like David.

Similarly, God is at work in us, chiseling away everything that is not part of his desire for us to look and act like children of God. 

And as living pieces of God’s work, it is painful when the hammer and chisel of God remove the rough edges and carve out of hardened marble a beautiful masterpiece. But it is necessary in order to make us beautiful, so that the Master Artist’s skill and grace can be put on display through us.

The reason for David needing to be rescued from his foes, being the Lord’s “drawing up” in Psalm 30:1 is unclear, but it seems to correspond to a time in David’s life when he was very near to death (see also Pss. 71:20; 130:1), and quite possibly because of some sin in his life since he speaks about the Lord’s anger being only momentary. Like water drawn out of a deep dark well, so the Lord has lifted David out of a deep hole when he faced a severe trial, which was possibly self-inflicted through his own sin.

Because of these problems David faced, he knew that his enemies would gloat over the illness that he faced (see also Ps. 35:19, 24-27). David says that it was the Lord that healed him in response to his cries for help. His sickness was so severe that he feared that he surely would face death (Sheol). In death, the Lord would have been delivering divine justice upon David, but instead he received mercy and grace.

The New Testament reminds us that God is serious about sin in his children. He sometimes acts against those who have been unrepentant and have brought about shame to the name of Christ. It is true that there is no more condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, but that does not mean that the Lord does not bring about temporal consequences for our sin that might be used as a means to our sanctification. In this psalms we can see that very effect whereby David learned in a deeper way of the love and care of the Lord.

Not only did David praise God for saving him, but he used the opportunity to encourage others to praise God also. David learned that with the Lord, forgiveness comes along with the chastening; and with our weeping comes a joy that our Father had never stopped loving us.

The hymn “Amazing Grace” closes with the lines, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise Than when we first begun.” Our days in heaven will be filled with praise because our Savior is worthy, and because we will more clearly see how much we do not deserve the “amazing grace” that has been bestowed upon all of God’s children. So remember the next time you face the chastening hand of God and come out of it with a heart filled with praise for the lessons God has taught you about who He is, and who we are.

Sowing Seeds of the Flesh (part 3)

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7–8, ESV)

Paul took seriously the destructive nature of sin in the life of those that claimed to be believers. Although he knew the sting of those who were trying to do good works to gain favor with God, he also knew that the Christian life is one which will produce the fruit of the Spirit in the life of those that are redeemed.

Having described these both, Paul addressed those that were self-deceived. I wrote about this in my first two posts which you can read here: Sowing Seeds of the Flesh (part 1) and Sowing Seeds of the Flesh (part 2). Today, I want to point out what Paul says regarding those that sow seeds of the flesh.

If you sow to the flesh you will reap death.(v. 8a)

Paul is referring to the section in chapter 5 and the works of the flesh. He is saying that if you sow these types of activities and attitudes, then you should not be surprised to reap the fruit of these things, which he calls “corruption.” Here is what Paul wrote:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19–21, ESV, emphasis mine)

This word “corruption” in Galatians 6:8 is a very graphic word. It is used to describe something that is rotting, putrid, decaying. Since Paul is speaking of the flesh here, he is painting a picture of a rotting corpse.

Is this not what Jesus said in Matt 16:24-26? Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me (v. 24). If you look at the works of the flesh, whether in Galatians 5, or elsewhere, it becomes clear that they are centered around “me.” They are self-centered. Here Jesus calls us to the opposite, even to the point of giving up our own physical life for Christ, if called to do so.

And then he says in Matthew 16:25-26 what Paul restates in Gaatiansl 6. He says that there is no profit in gaining everything to bring comfort and safety and pleasure to this flesh, this body, while losing your eternal souls!

The flesh is rotting away, brothers and sisters! If we feed this rotting corpse with what it lusts after, we will not gain anything at all. We will be sowing seeds of destruction for our eternal souls. Christ is calling us to more. He is calling us to a life of self-denial. I don’t me monkish living. That is death. I mean denial of the things that bring spiritual death. Those works of the flesh that may appeal to our sin-nature, but in the end work like rat poison to our souls!

Conclusion

There is the story told of a town where there were two mines. One was very prosperous and the other one was not. As such, the prosperous mine paid its workers better than the other. A miner thought he would try something. He worked all week for the less prosperous mine, and at the end of the week, on payday, he went to the prosperous mine to receive his wages. The manager asked him if he worked at the other mine, and he said he did. Then he told him that he needed to go there to collect his wages. But the miner said that the prosperous mine paid better wages and he wanted to be paid their wages instead of the meager wages of the poorer mine.

The manager said that he must gather his pay from the mine he worked. It is not possible to receive pay from one when you work at another.

My friends, the wages of sin is death. The wages of sin is death. How can some be so deceived to think that we can sin and collect the wages of heaven? How can that be?

Work for the Master. His wages are good. Do not sow to the flesh and you will not receive the payment of rotting flesh as your reward.

And if you have planted a lot of seeds of your own destruction, know this. Christ came to swallow up death for you, to take away the wages you earned and to give you His wages, to give you the fruit of His perfect, righteous life. 

Christ died as the payment for your sins so that the fruit of your sin–what you deserve–would not come about. Instead, with Christ as your Savior, you will reap the fruit of righteousness. Won’t you give your life to him today?

Sowing Seeds of the Flesh (part 2)

On Friday I pointed to Paul’s admonishment to the churches in Galatia regarding the way the deeds of the flesh are manifest like the fruit that is borne of wicked seeds. You can read part one here: Sowing Seeds of the Flesh (part 1). Our actions and attitudes are like seeds that we are constantly planting. It may take some time, but they will eventually bear fruit.

Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7–8, ESV)

What does Paul mean when he says, ““Do not be deceived…” (v. 7a)?

The word “deceived” means to wander, or to go astray. It can also used of those who are led astray or lead others astray. Paul has already spoken of the fact that the Galatians were straying. In Gal 1:6, he spoke of his astonishment that they were so “quickly deserting” the Lord who had called them in salvation. And in Gal 3:1, Paul used even stronger language. He asked who it was that “bewitched” the Galatians into following this false gospel that was consuming the heart of the Church there. It was as if they had been put under a spell.

But Galatians isn’t the only place where Paul speaks of being deceived. In 1Cor 6:9 he warned the Corinthian church of the false teaching that says that somehow sin and the Kingdom of God are compatible. In other words, don’t worry about some fundamentalist understanding of the Law of God. Don’t worry about how you live. There is grace abounding to sinners, so live how you want, because God is love and he would never condemn anyone to hell. 

Paul says, don’t let this kind of lie deceive you into being eternally damned to hell. God does care about our souls. That is why he calls us to the gospel of Jesus Christ and then calls us to live a life of holiness that reflects that inner change. This is a lie similar to what the Galatian libertines were saying.

In 1Cor 15:33 Paul once again sounded a warning about deception. In this passage he warned the church of the false idea that a Christian can stay unstained by the world of sin that we live in while he “wallow[s] in dens of iniquity.” (Timothy George, NACNT). There are some even today who want you to think that as a blood-bought Christian you are free to do anything that an unbeliever does and that by virtue of your redemption you are like Teflon–nothing sticks to you!

Don’t be deceived! Second Corinthians 6:14-18 is clear! You may remember well the sinful world that you came out of and you have enough God-given sense to stay away from that filth because of the carnage and destruction it brought to your life before Christ.

And then someone comes along, and we are afraid of the labels “legalist” and “Pharisee,” so we allow them to pigeon-hole us into thinking not only that they are not sinning by indulging the flesh, but we are tempted to follow suit in our own lives. Don’t be deceived!

A legalist and Pharisee seek to be redeemed by their own righteous keeping of the Law. And if you are doing that, you are a Legalist. You need Jesus because all your righteous deeds are like filthy rags to God.

But if you trust in the blood of the Lamb to set you free from your sins, and you want to obey God in the big as well as little things because you have been redeemed and you want to walk in the Light as He is in the Light (1Jn 1:7), YOU ARE NOT A LEGALIST. YOU ARE NOT A PHARISEE! You, my friend, are a faithful servant of God. You are HOLY! You are GODLY. For sure, God is working “in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure,” (Phil 2:13) so he deserves all the glory–but You ARE working out your salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12), testing yourself to see whether you are actually in the faith (2Cor 13:5)! Do not be deceived!

When we think that what we believe or how we live has no real importance in our lives, we are either being deceived or are self-deceived. And we are more than likely deceiving others in trying to justify our own sin. Paul tells us, “Do not be deceived!”

But Paul says more. He goes on to say, “God is not Mocked.”(v. 7b).

God does not command or admonish so that we can choose to obey or ignore him. God is not some weak old man who is powerless to do anything but watch us helplessly as we sin. God is not joking. He is not suggesting when he commands. He is not hoping we will obey. He is not playing when he speaks. The fool who thumbs his /her nose at God will find that, in the end, the tables have turned. THERE IS A PAYDAY SOMEDAY!

What do I mean by “Payday?” Verse 7 paints us a picture from agriculture–from the farming community that Paul lived in. He says, “What you plant, is what you will sow!” You can’t get watermelons from tomato seeds. You can’t get peaches from corn kernels. You can’t plant green beans and hope to get grapes. And Paul is telling the Galatians and by the Spirit he tells us, You can’t live a wicked life of sin and hope that you will bear the fruit of the Spirit! Our actions produce consequences! Your words produce consequences. Your thoughts produce consequences. Your activities produce consequences.

It used to be that if you were a young boy playing baseball in the street, that if you broke a neighbor’s window, your dad would take you over to the neighbor to apologize and make arrangements for you to replace that window. Today we live in a different culture. Today people want to live without consequences.

Today people sue McDonalds for getting fat. They sue the company that made the navigation system in their car after they drove off the road and into a lake because the GPS told them to do it. They complain to the principle of their school because the teacher didn’t make their kid smart.

And that mentality is not new. In Galatia, the false teachers had taught that they didn’t need to worry about the consequences of their actions. They could live how they wanted–Grace! Grace! Let us sin that grace may abound! MAY IT NEVER BE, was Paul’s answer! And it ought to be our answer. We must see that we will reap what we have sown!

Tomorrow we will look at verse 8 and the negative consequences of being deceived by this lie.