Two Kingdoms: Our Rebellion Destroys True Pleasure

April 24, 2015

Consider once again the “Two Kingdoms” Gospel presentation:

Here is a truth I have come to know.  God created the world as His Kingdom, and all was very good. But Satan rebelled, desiring worship that only God deserved. He set up his own kingdom, at war with God’s kingdom of light. The first man and woman, deceived by Satan, chose to rebel also. Since then, all of us have joined that rebellion against our rightful king.

Satan’s kingdom is the kingdom of darkness. He deceives people, saying, “You don’t have to serve me, just serve yourself!” Yet as we serve ourselves, we end up destroying all that is good, even all true pleasure. That is Satan’s goal.

God’s kingdom of light has overcome the kingdom of darkness. For God sent Jesus to earth to live as man should live. Jesus then died on a cross, suffering to pay the penalty we deserve for our rebellion. But God raised Him from the dead, showing that Jesus has authority even over death and the kingdom of darkness. Jesus will reign forever and ever.

God commands all men to turn from their rebellion against Him. He invites all of us to leave the kingdom of darkness and to become citizens of the Kingdom of light. We must turn from our selfish ways and acknowledge that Jesus is our rightful King. We must let Him tell us what to do. By God’s mercy on account of the cross, we can receive His forgiveness and escape from the kingdom of darkness, gaining love, joy, and peace in the Kingdom of light forever.

We live in this little bubble called life for 70 to 80 years. When it pops, we join whichever king we served for all eternity. Which king are you serving?

In a series of blog posts, we are looking at different key points in this presentation. Today: The destruction of true pleasure as we rebel against God and serve ourselves.

We have seen that sin is not like breaking a speed limit. On a clear day with few cars on the road, we may be able to achieve the purposes of the traffic regulation – safe driving – while speeding. So, if we can avoid getting caught, there is no downside to safely driving above the limit. But breaking God’s Law is not like that. Whenever we sin, we are rebelling against the wise God, our rightful King. We are saying that we know better than He what is in our own best interest. We are acting as if He is not good, not all-knowing – we are acting as if He is limiting our pleasure and fulfillment.

Today, let’s look further at our motivation for sinning: While we think that rebelling against God will bring us pleasure – and Satan encourages us to think this way – in fact, our attempts to serve ourselves end up destroying all true pleasure. Thus, thinking ourselves wise – thinking that we’re smart enough to know better than God how to pursue our greatest joy – we become fools; we destroy all that is good, all that leads to joy.

Why is this the case? Two reasons.

First, because God’s commands are given for our good (Deuteronomy 6:24, 10:13). In following the wisdom of God we find life. As Proverbs 12:28 says, “In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.”

Similarly, in Proverbs 8, Wisdom says

Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her. (Proverbs 8:10-11)

She concludes:

Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.  For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:34-36)

Jesus echoes this claim:

All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:8-10)

To choose riches rather than Scriptural wisdom and obedience to God is to lose out. Whatever we desire apart from wisdom leads to less joy, not more. Indeed, true life is found only in following God. Rebellion leads to our hurting ourselves. And so we in effect love death – as we rebel, thinking we are pursuing pleasure, we are rushing headlong into the destruction of pleasure.

Jesus is even more explicit. All others claiming to know the way to God or the path to joy steal and kill and destroy pleasure. They are deceivers – thieves and robbers. But Jesus offers us true life, abundant life, real pleasure. Indeed, later He will say that eternal life is knowing God the Father and Him (John 17:2).

This brings us to the second reason our rebellion leads to the destruction of pleasure. We are eternal beings, and our rebellion has eternal consequences. In choosing to rebel, we often calculate the expected pleasure from sinning against the possible costs. We’ve seen above that even in this life, we actually lose pleasure – the costs far outweigh the supposed benefits. But when we incorporate the eternal consequences of rebellion, the costs pile up higher and higher.

Again, Jesus Himself makes this clear:

An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)

We all will have a resurrection. The question is: A resurrection to what? To life, or to horrible judgment? A life lived in rebellion against God will inevitably lead to that horrible judgment – the end of any possible pleasure.

Furthermore, the Apostle Paul says that Jesus, when He comes again,

will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 NIV).

Shut out from the only source of goodness, from the only source of joy. That’s where rebels end up. But those who are His, those who are saved by His grace, those who joyfully obey Him, can say with confidence,

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

So, consider:

  • How often do you give in to temptation, thinking this will bring you joy?
  • How often do you think of God as a spoilsport, hindering what will bring you fulfillment and pleasure?
  • How often do you think of God as a taskmaster, giving you a long list of tedious, frustrating rules to follow?

To act or think in these ways is to believe Satan’s lies, to rebel against God, to despise His wisdom and goodness – and ultimately to destroy your own pleasure.

So look to the source of all true life! Bow down before your King – and in that bowing, in that submission, in that worship, you will find fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.

Jesus’ Last Evening: Love One Another

April 2, 2015

Tonight we remember the last evening of our Lord’s life. Recall the key events and statements that lead up to Jesus’ arrest:

  • Jesus washing the disciples’ feet
  • The prophecy of a betrayal by one of the Twelve
  • The Last Supper, and the institution of the Lord’s Supper
  • The New Commandment: That they love one another as He has loved them
  • The prophecy of Peter’s denial
  • “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”
  • “Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father”
  • “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments”
  • “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing”
  • “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit”
  • “The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.  And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.”
  • “If I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.”
  • “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
  • “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
  • “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
  • “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
  • Gethsemane: “Not My will, but Yours be done.”
  • To Judas: “Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?”

Over the centuries, many Christians have seen the New Commandment –  “Love one another as I have loved you” – as the theme that integrates all these events and statements. (For this reason, many call this evening Maundy Thursday, from mandatum, the Latin word for “commandment” in John 13:34.) With that in mind, consider how much we learn about love through the highlights above:

  • Love is humble and serves
  • Love is loyal, and never betrays
  • Love is forgiving and forbearing
  • Love warns and speaks even hard truths when that will be good for the other
  • Love gives up all for the loved ones
  • Jesus’ love encourages us and empowers us through the Helper to become like Him and to fulfill His work
  • Love sends us out
  • Love warns of division and opposition
  • Love points others to the only source of all good, the Father Himself
  • Love makes clear there is only one way to the Father
  • Love emphasizes our weakness to accomplish anything apart from Christ in us
  • When we love Jesus, we rejoice to obey Him
  • The loving, humble Jesus says that to know Him and the Father is eternal life
  • Love unifies us so that our very unity might bear witness to the One Who loves

We can say more. The disciples who heard Jesus speak and act out these truths then taught others the New Commandment and its implications. The Apostle Paul highlights the commandment also. Here is a complete selection of verses in the New Testament that use the Greek word for “one another” in reference to some or all followers of Christ. Negatively, we are told not to:

  • Pass judgment on one another
  • Put a hindrance in another’s way
  • Divide one from another
  • Provoke or envy one another
  • Lie to one another
  • Seek revenge on one another
  • Speak evil of one another
  • Grumble against one another

Instead, positively we are to:

  • Encourage one another
  • Honor one another
  • Live in harmony with one another
  • Pursue peace with one another
  • Welcome one another
  • Show hospitality to one another
  • Instruct one another
  • Greet one another
  • Serve one another
  • Bear one another’s burdens
  • Bear with and forgive one another
  • Do good to one another
  • Speak the truth to one another
  • Be kind to one another
  • Submit to one another
  • Count others more significant than yourself
  • Consider one another, how to stir up one another to love and good works
  • Confess sins to one another
  • Pray for one another
  • Know that we have fellowship with one another – that is, we are teammates for a common purpose

So on this “New Commandment Thursday,” I encourage you to meditate on these Scriptures and to reflect on this summary list of what loving one another means. May God be pleased to make us “increase and abound in love for one another and for all . . . so that he may establish [our] hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).