57. Drowning in the Sea (Recap)

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 57. Drowning in the Sea (Recap)

2 Sam 22:4-6  “I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and have been saved from my enemies. The waves of death swirled about me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.

Recently: In the last seven studies we have been considering aspects of the culture we find in the West at this time in history, aspects that threaten our very spiritual lives if we allow them to overwhelm us, and I likened this to being drowned by these things. Now to draw these threads together to better enable us to see the big picture, let’s consider the analogy of the sea as a description of the culture that we live in. We said near the beginning that ‘drowning’ is the negative outcome of being out at sea, but alternatives are that we swim, we sail, or we surf. In other words the sea has the capability of killing us by drowning but it also has the capability of being used for enjoyment, business or travel, all legitimate pastimes or experiences. The analogy of the sea is also useful when we consider it is often tumultuous, there is constant movement and change and it can be threatening. (Jude used a similar analogy – Jude v.13)

What this says is that a godless culture is always bad and harmful, tumultuous and changing, but ‘culture’ in itself is neutral and so all of these things can be positive if they are godly, i.e. we enjoy them within the confines of God’s guidance and direction and we avoid excesses. These things we have been considering are not bad in themselves, but they are bad when we use or experience them in a godless fashion. When that happens they change from things provided by God for our blessing, into things that have the potential to destroy us. Let’s examine each of them again briefly to see these things.

The Possibilities of Materialism: Now the truth is that God has provided everything material and spiritual for our blessing. When we speak of materialism we tend to mean a life that excludes the spiritual and excludes God. All material things, we say again, are potentially things for blessing. Used in excess, most things become harmful. The ‘world’ is materialistic (godless) but we as Christians should always hold a balance that accepts, is aware of, and operates in, a spiritual dimension as well as a material dimension. Our spiritual lives are threatened when we forget or fail to operate within that balance and almost invariably it will be the spiritual side that will suffer. Having said that, there have been those who reject the material dimension and speak of it negatively, forgetting it is God’s provision for us to be used wisely and thankfully (Jas 1:17, 1 Tim 4:3,4). However our greater threat is likely to be we get caught up in materialistic living and that is a life where we forget the spiritual dimension that we are called to experience, live in and serve in. The call is therefore not to let enjoyment of the material world become the all-important thing in life but maintain a balance whereby we operate in, experience and enjoy both realms.

The Danger of Unreality: Being creative, which includes writing books, making films and so much more, is part of being made in the image of the Creator, but fiction is always fiction and we must never forget that. Even more we must always remember that the human author, film-maker etc. is a human being who may or may not be conveying an incomplete picture of what life is about. ‘Romanticism’ tends to view life unrealistically through rose-tinted glasses while ‘realism’ tends to point out only the harsh realities of life. Often a book or film will express one of the other but rarely both together, and therefore we should always remember what the author or film-producer is aiming to do and, in our minds, refocus in the light of the truth about God, and us as sinners with the possibility of redemption, i.e. remember what is and what is not ‘real’.   The danger is always that if we are regular readers or regular watchers of TV, videos and films (and computer gamers, for that matter) we can get swept up in what we have seen/experienced and lose contact with reality, how life really is. The temptation that the enemy puts before us, is to believe the lie that I can live in that unreal ‘reality’ and forget that actually there are always consequences to be born with such things in the real world.

Holding Knowledge Lightly: Knowledge in itself is neutral. The problem with ‘knowledge’ is that sometimes what we think is real or true is not, it is merely an opinion or a hypothesis that may yet change. Knowledge becomes dangerous when we allow untrue knowledge (rather like ‘fake news’) to determine our outlook on life, our perception of what is or is not real and true. It is also dangerous when we allow knowledge to boost our egos or more specifically our pride. Pride always means a loss of perspective, making us think we are greater, more powerful, cleverer, than we are. Pride also questions whether we need God.

There is a saying, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” which the Internet suggests means, “a small amount of knowledge can lead to overconfidence, leaping to invalid conclusions based on what you do know without taking into account the things that you don’t know.” The wise person knows that the more you do know the more you should realise how little you know, and thus will maintain an outlook of humility. Failing the understand these things means we can become overwhelmed and even intimidated by big people, big theories and big figures. At such times a healthy dose of reading the scriptures and remembering that God is THE big person who is all-knowing and all-wise, is a wise approach. He alone should be our ultimate source of wisdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” (Psa 111:10) and, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” (Prov 1:7) Never let go that perspective.

The Life of Social Media: The use of social media and social networking, we observed, has many benefits to our lives today AND many curses. In the light of the many fears that are being raised by a variety of professionals, we would be wise to take note of not only the warnings of abuses and harms that can ensue but also the very real fear of addiction to usage. There is also the concept of the loss of reality that can arise, in both security and knowledge terms that we noted can distort the reality about ourselves and the world around us. Really an extension of the previous paragraph.

A Confusing & Uncertain World:  In both the USA & the UK and indeed many other ‘Western’ countries, Christians are now clearly in the minority and since our nations have largely rejected God we have lost a moral base and no longer believe in absolutes – values or principles which are regarded as universally valid – and so relativism rules which says that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute, i.e. right or wrong depends on every unique situation and will be different for every situation. At least that is what is said except the moment someone harms ‘me or my family’ and which point we scream, “that’s not right, where are the police, justice needs to be done, someone needs to pay for this!”

So we live with the ‘law of exceptions’ that says, “well, yes, generally it is wrong for someone to steal but perhaps there are exceptions, such as when someone is on the point of starvation,” or “well, yes, it is wrong to kill another person, but perhaps there are exceptions such as when a SWAT team have to take out a terrorist carrying a bomb.”  Ever since Hiroshima we have accepted that killing a large number of people is an unpleasant fact of life to save a much larger number of people from an ongoing war. Perhaps as Christians we might say that we recognise that in a fallen world sometimes an evil is necessary to prevent a greater evil – but it is still evil. But these are ethical dilemmas, necessary evils from living in this fallen world, but that is very different from the blatant misrepresenting of truth, telling outright lies etc. that have become almost a fact of life in recent years across the global communication and media networks.

Coping with ‘the sea’: Surfing or sailing on the sea of modern culture is appreciating the wonder and goodness of so many aspects of this world. Culture is sometimes defined as “the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society,” i.e. the way societies think and then act. For us as Christians things like self-awareness, understanding, knowledge, wisdom and discernment must be major tools in our armoury as we seek to cope with the things these last studies have been dealing with.

Helps? Realizing that

  • we don’t have to comply with the pressures of peers and advertisers to get the latest piece of hi-tec,
  • rejecting the false and unreal perspectives that are often put before us,
  • rejecting the intimidating atheistic voices that seek to challenge with their skewed and incomplete ‘facts’, hypotheses and opinions,
  • taking control of thoughts about myself and others from Christ’s perspective and not that of my Facebook friends, and
  • refusing to be swayed by those who shout loudest in the noisy media market place of political, theological or simply ideological ideas.

Understanding & Living in Christ: Remaining above the surface of the water (culture) is what happens when we take hold of such truths as, God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,” (Eph 2:6). The threefold thrust of that is that:

  • we are to see ourselves as intimately united with Christ,
  • in a place where we are (with him) to rule over our circumstances, and
  • where we are above – and therefore can see clearly – the shambles of the world below us.

In the light of all this, we might do well to finish this study with Paul’s prayer: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Eph 1:17-19)  Amen!

Advertisements

3. A Sense of Alone

Motivation Meditations in Acts : 3 :  A Sense of Alone

Acts  1:9   After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

How we take for granted what we read in the Bible! This has got to be one of the most amazing things recorded in the New Testament. There were the disciples, one minute standing with Jesus and the next moment, they are alone – apart from two angels who question them. Well we won’t say much more about this episode here for you can see it in the general series on Acts. The point we make here is that suddenly this most charismatic of figures who had been the centre of their lives for three years was now gone. Yes, that had happened once already at the crucifixion but now it has happened again in a completely different way. He has just gone up and departed from sight. At least before they had a body; now they have nothing but memories. Yet the two angels declare that he will return again one day, although they do not specify when.

Now I want to link this in with some teaching that Jesus gave which we find in Luke 18.  In Luke 17 we find Jesus speaking about the Last Days and again he indicates there will be an uncertainty about the ‘when’ and the ‘how’ even though he does give us many indications or signs to watch for. And then at the beginning of chapter 18 we find, Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Lk 18:1)  Of course people often take this out of context but when we see the context, we see that Jesus is saying, however long you have to wait for my return, remain faithful to what I’ve taught you and seek my Father in prayer and if you want things changed, keep on praying, and he does this via this parable about a widow. What is interesting is that at the end of that parable we find, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Lk 18:8)

Again, when you see this in context, you will see its significance. Jesus has spoken about the uncertain Last Days and he has taught about the need to remain faithful in your relationship with the Lord and keep on bringing your needs to Him in prayer and when he gets to it, we can now see that what he is saying is, regardless of the days, regardless of whether you get your prayers answered, regardless of how difficult it is (this we imply in the light of the general teaching of the difficulty of those days), remain true, remain faithful to God.

Now this lays down a foundational principle for us that has wide application. Basically it says, whatever is happening – however difficult the days, however trying the circumstances, however aggravating people appear to be, and however silent God appears to remain – remain true and faithful.

Remember this is a series about motivations, about how we see people react in Scripture and what Scripture teaches us about people’s motivations. What this now tells us, and it should be born in mind throughout the series, is that if everything is taken away from us (Jesus has just left the disciples), if we suddenly find ourselves bereft by loss of loved ones or by peace being removed and us being left with upsetting circumstances, and if there seems nothing to indicate guidance and direction, even if all these things are true, we are still called to remain faithful to the Lord.

Put it another way. If everyone in our family is an unbeliever, or if everyone around us seems to desert the Lord – for Jesus did say in such times the love of most (for Him) will grow cold – even if that is true, we must still remain true. If I am the only Christian in my street, or my class or in my place of work, I am still called to remain true to Him, I am still called to be filled with His love and goodness, and still called to be filled with truth and honesty and integrity. If everyone around me is abandoning moral integrity, I will not steal, I will not commit adultery and I will not covet what belongs to others, and I will still worship the Lord!   When all restraints are removed in society and everyone else abandons church and worshipping the Lord on a Sunday, I will remain true. When everyone else becomes jaundiced and jaded and cynical, I will remain thankful and joyful and true to God.

Do you see this? We don’t really need to worry about motivations, we just have to determine to remain true whatever happens, because Jesus is watching and Jesus looks to see who will be faithful when he comes back. In a day of declining faith in the materialistic West of the twenty-first century, remember that faith isn’t declining everywhere. We may feel like Elijah and moan to the Lord that we are the only one left (see 1Kings 19:14) but the truth is, like then, that there are many others who remain faithful and true.

Joshua found himself in a time of compromise and had to declare to the people, But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh 24;15) i.e. you serve your idols if you will in your folly, but me and my family will remain true to the Lord. Stamp that last sentence on your heart.

Those words bring to mind the words of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Dan 3:16-18) That is commitment! Whatever you do to us, we will remain true to the Lord and put our future entirely in His hands. Hallelujah! May that be our response also!