August 3, 2014
We are starting a new series this morning. The title is “True North.” As we are trying to figure out how to use the Bible to navigate cultural issues of our day and the title of the message which will kind of set the tone for the entire series, is called “You Are What You Think,” or you become what you think.
I am going to talk to you this morning about how the mind is where the battle is either won or lost. I don’t know if you are familiar with how compasses work, but there is difference with a compass between magnetic north or magnetic north pole and the geographical true north pole. The magnetic north pole is made up of a…that is what basically the compass is, you take the compass and it will lead you to a magnetic north. That is the place where the poles are sent into the ground and the lines are set. Now some people think it is off the coast of Greenland, but it is north enough for you, if you have a compass, you can find it.
The difference is, that is not true north. Geographic true north is where the North Pole is. If you take a steel pole and take it from the North Pole to the South Pole and you send it through the ground, that is where the North Pole is. And the reason it is different is because the earth is not flat, it is round.
Now what does that mean to you? If you take your compass and you are trying to find the North Pole and you head out into the direction which you think is north, you could wind up, scientists say, as far as 590 miles off course because magnetic north is different that true north.
You see, every person in here today has a compass in their hands. And what you are trying to do is you are trying to navigate life. You want to do what God expects you to do. You want to do what is right. And you are following this compass. If you have a magnetic compass in your hand, you are following the ways of the world. You are influenced by the advice of a secular society or the ideals of this country.
But in order to wind up at true north, you are basing your life upon the Word of God. You see, the Word of God always points us in the right direction. And the question you are going to ask yourself today is…and this is really what this whole series boils down to…am I going to follow what God’s Word says or am I going to listen to the advice of secular society and ungodly influences.
You see, God gave us a road map on how to live. And He did that with the way that He outlined the Bible. You see, the Old Testament for the Jewish people is not called the Old Testament because it is their only testament, right? They have one. It is new to them, but it is called the Tanak, it is not called the Old Testament. Now the Tanak is a fancy word to describe three different sections. This would be a good place for you to take notes, if you are taking notes right now. The T stands for something, the N stands for something and the K stands for something. The As are supplied. The T is the Torah. It is the first five books of the Bible…Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. It is another word for Law. The Jewish people would have loved the Torah. That was the weightiest portion of Scripture.
Now they didn’t look at the Law like we look at the Law. When we say the word “law” it is a negative term, right? Nobody jumped out of bed this morning and said, I can’t wait to follow the laws of the state of Tennessee today and drive 55 miles an hour to church. Nobody did that, right? I mean, nobody does that.
But the Jewish people, on the other hand, they love the Law. It was instruction, it was guidance. Paul said in Romans, we love the Law. Jesus said, I didn’t come to abolish the Law, I came to fulfill the Law, right?
So the Torah is the Law. The second section is the Neviim. Here is just a short Hebrew lesson. Nevi in Hebrew is the Hebrew word for prophet. Whenever you tack on the two words, I and m to a word, it makes it plural. So Neviim is the what? The audience participation part, excluding Reggie. The prophets, right? Now the prophets began…Reggie is our Hebrew resident scholar. The prophets began with the book of Joshua, it is the passing on of the baton from Moses to Joshua and then you have the Prophets: Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah.
The last section of the Bible is the K, the Ketuvim. The Ketuvim is another word for writings. It has books like Ecclesiastes or Proverbs. It begins with the book of what? Psalms.
Now when God laid this out, He was saying to the people without saying a word, that if you follow the Word of God and you implement the Word of God, you will have a prosperous life. So much so that He said that specifically in the Neviim and the Ketuvim.
Let’s go to the first book of the Neviim, the book of Joshua and lets go to Chapter 1. And I want to show you this amazing insight from God as Moses passed the baton to Joshua and Joshua is about to go into the land. When you are there, say “word.”
“This book of instruction“…some of your translations say, this book of the Law…“must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may be able to observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do.” Some translations say meditate on the Word of God. You have to understand, for the Jewish people, meditation was not filling the mind with just information. Meditation (come in real close) leads to application. So you think right and you become differently. We believe, I believe Biblically, that belief always drives behavior, not vice versa. So if you want your children to start acting right, teach them the right way to live and the right way God expected them to live, and their behavior will be modified. Right? Same thing goes for children of the Bible, the children of Israel and in particular, us.
So God tells Joshua, as you are starting out, if you want to be successful, you want to be prosperous, read the Word of God, meditate on the Word of God and implement the Word of God and you will be prosperous.
Now is it any accident that of all the ways that God could have begun the final section of His Old Testament, the Tanak, He begins with the book of Psalms and He has a strangely similar command by the Psalmist to His people.
Turn to Psalm 1:1. This will be our text we consider today. The Torah is another word for Law. Joshua begins with meditate on the Law. Watch what the Psalmist said. Psalm 1:1, the beginning of the Ketuvim. “Blessed is the man or woman of God, who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers.” I memorized it in the ESV, so bear with me. It is very hard to get out of it. “But his delight or her delight is on the Law of the Lord, or the instruction, as the Holman says, “of the Law of the Lord. And he or she meditates on it day and night.”
God gave us an amazing truth…obviously the Word is truth…but He gave us an amazing truth. In both of these sections, including the first one, that if we base our life on the Word of God, we are going to be successful, profitable and fortified. But if we bank our lives on the world, the advice of the world or ungodly people, we can expect to be unstable and inconsistent in our life. And that is what my prayer is today, that you will see that the Bible, watch this, is the final authority in your life. That when you life begins to crumble, and if it is not now, it may one day, you go to the Word of God for instruction and not the advice of ungodly people, amen? And that is my prayer, that you would see the Bible can help you direct life’s path in uncertain times and unchanging…or changeable society.
Let’s pray as we begin this morning. Father, we thank You for Your Word. We thank You for the fact that You did not leave us to figure it out ourselves. You gave us a clear path. We pray today that You would make us here, at our church, people of the Word, men and women who get into the Word of God until the Word of God gets into them. Jesus, You were the walking Word of God. Should we be any different. We ask it in Jesus’ name. And everyone said, Amen!
There are two options for living, as we see in Psalm 1. If you are taking notes, you can write the first truth down in the text. These are signposts to help you navigate life. Here is the first one. There are two options for living. And the Psalmist starts off by saying, “Blessed.” The Holman says, “How happy is the man.” It is another word for “joyful.” It is another word for “satisfied.” It is another word for “fulfilled.”
So if you are in this place today and you are saying, I am not fulfilled. I am never satisfied. I am always seeking something more, then maybe you need to heed to this advice. It is interesting because that word is used, we think happy or blessed, means to get things, but it means more of a state of mind. It means a state of being. And what he is about to say is, here are two different tracks that you are going to see. There are two different paths, two different options, two different outcomes. Basically what he is saying is this, this is the difference between the godly and the ungodly man. This is the difference between someone who prospers and someone who falters. This is the difference between someone who is blessed and someone who is not. And it basically comes down to the difference between listening to the Word and wandering in the world, right?
Now he says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk…” Now, it is interesting because he starts off with the negative to accentuate the positive. So he doesn’t say, blessed is the man who does this, he says, blessed is the man or woman who does not do this. Who does not what? Walk in the counsel of the wicked.
I love how he uses the word “walk,” because walking is synonymous with the Christian life. The entire Christian life is a walk. Did you know that? In fact, the whole Bible is a picture of a walk. God walked with Adam in the cool of the day in the Garden, right? God began His journey with man walking together. Enoch took a long walk and he never came home! Right? Where did Enoch go? I guess he is with God in heaven, right? It says he walked with God and he was no more. If you think of Abraham. God goes to Abraham and He says, I want you to take a long walk and I want you to go to a place that when you get there, I will tell you that you have arrived. I have said this before, but the greatest miracle that ever happened in the life of Abraham is the fact that he convinced his wife to go along with him to a place that they don’t know they are going to. Where are we going? Ur…Ur…some of you will get this later…ur, I don’t know. But when we get there, God will let us know, right? And so he goes on this walk. Moses takes a really long walk, right? In fact, just four decades he spends wandering in the wilderness.
Do you know when Jesus Christ called His disciples to follow Him, in Hebrew He would have said these words. In English it says, come, follow Me. Do you know what He would have said in Hebrew? The listening ear would have heard, come, walk after Me. And that is what they did. They walked after Him His whole life.
Jesus took a long walk to the cross. Paul was converted on the walk to Damascus. The two men saw Jesus on the road to Emmaus. I mean, it is just a whole…the whole Bible is a walk, right? And so it is interesting because what he says is, as a Christian we should be walking, right?
How do you stop walking as a Christian in the direction of God? Well, he shows us. Do not walk in the counsel of the wicked. Now the counsel of the wicked…I am going to use…let me tell you what I am going to do this morning, I am going to use two translations to prove a point. The ESV will show us the literal progression of the text. The Holman will explain what the ESV is saying. So it is going to explain it for us. ESV is the literal. So notice what the ESV says.
“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.” The Holman says, “How happy is the man who does not follow the (what?) the advice of the wicked.” Now that is pretty interesting. In order for us to get this, to feel the weight of this, we have to put our Hebrew lenses on this morning and I have to take you back to the First Century or even further back to when the Psalmist wrote this, to see this text, to feel this text and to hear this text with the same ears that the Jewish audience would have heard and saw this text.
Let me teach you a little bit about Hebrew thought. We are westerners and so we think differently and respond differently than the Hebrews. So we have got to go back to the Middle Eastern context. And in order to understand the Hebrew language, you have to realize that Hebrews did not prove a point with punctuation. They didn’t use periods or apostrophes or even better, exclamation points. They proved a point (watch this) with pictures. So when they are writing with words, they are speaking with visual images, right? And so we have to look at the text to see the images there. And I want you to notice the progression. The man is visually walking, right? I can prove this even further and I have said this is the past and I think it is worth remembering and reciting this again. If you go to an American seminary today and you ask American students this question, describe God to me in one word, guess what they are going to say? God is perfect. God is (what?), God is love. This is the audience participation part by the way. Over here. God is what? God is holy. If you really want to impress your friends, you will use the omnis. He is omnipotent. He is omnipresent. He is omniscient. He is all powerful. He is everywhere. He knows all.
If you go to a Jewish Yeshiva or Jewish school and you ask students the same question, guess what they are going to say? God is a rock. God is running water. God is a door. God is a shepherd. God is a path. Who does that sound like? It sounds like Jesus, right? Jesus was a Jewish man in a Jewish culture, speaking to Jewish people in a language that Jewish people would have understood, right? The Hebrew language or the Aramaic language.
And so we have to look at this from the Hebrew perspective. When the Psalmist says, do not walk in the counsel of the wicked, what he is giving is this picture of a man walking and listening, as the Holman says, to the advice of the ungodly.
What does that mean for you? That means the people who are influencing you the most should not be unbelieving pagans. The advice that you are taking to live your life should not be coming from the world, it should be coming from the Word. Now here is the fact or the reality. I know people who would claim to be born-again believers who are waking up every morning and getting information for their day from the paper in the Horoscope and not the Word.
Friends, if you are getting up in the morning and you are looking at the Horoscope to plan your day, that is ungodly. That is ungodly. If when you life falls apart and you are calling pagan friends to get advice about spiritual issues, that is ungodly. And I want you to see something, this is the beginning stage of this wandering away from God. And what the Psalmist says is, it always starts with a listening ear to the wrong station. Always. It always begins with listening to lies.
So what happens is, when you forsake the godly counsel, you buy into worldly wisdom and you stop walking and you start, (watch this) standing. Do you see the picture? We have a couple of pictures on the screen to follow along. “Does not walk in the counsel of the wicked nor stand in the way of sinners.” The Holman says, “Or take the path of sinners.” And what he is saying is, at one time you were walking, following the Lord, but now your closest associates are all ungodly people. And I would submit to you because it happened to me, you don’t even know how it happened. But as you take a look at your landscape of your life and a photograph of your friends, you realize that they are unbelievers, and they are infecting you, and they are poisoning you with unhealthy, unbiblical truth.
And what he says is, when you stop walking, you start standing around the ungodly. And what you do is, you minimize and trivialize the Christian life. You say, they are really not that bad. They are good people. I used to tell my Mom that. Mom, these are actually good people. And my Mom would say, yeah, but they have been to jail many times, they are addicted to drugs, they lie, steal and cheat. They may have been good people but they are not doing good things. You know, maybe you are right, Mom.
But that is what happens to you. You start hanging with ungodly people. So you stop walking for the Lord. And then what the Psalmist says is you start standing, (watch this) and when you stand around sinners long enough, you stop standing and you start squatting. Sit in the seat of scoffers. The Holman says, you join a bunch of mockers!
So what at one time was a big deal for you, language that you never used or movies that you never watched or sayings that you never engaged in, they become comfortable for you now. This idea of sitting is a dwelling place. It is an idea of residing. It is, you planted your roots down. You have nailed the furniture down. This is your lifestyle now. These are your friends now.
Here are three words to describe the picture here. Watch this. When you look…I am sorry, when you listen long enough, you begin to linger and when you linger, you begin to laugh at God.
Let me ask you a personal question here. What is it about the world that entertains you? What is it you love about the world so much and the things of the world? What is it? Think about it. Why does the world fascinate you so much? Think about it. It sucks you into its system. What is it about the world? Because what God said is, it seems like you are following this direction, but you could start with an insignificant degree here and you could wind up hundreds of miles off course later.
So let me ask you, where is your compass leading you? The flip side is this. He gives us a contrast in the text. What he says is, when you change the direction or the influence or the advice upon which you are building your life, the course, you make a course correction and your whole life changes. “His delight is on the Law of the Lord and he meditates day and night.” And what he is saying here is something interesting. He is saying, what you think about is who you become. Proverbs 23:7, “As a man thinks, so is he.” Think about that one. Proverbs 23:7 New King James. As a man thinks, so is he, which is the title of the message. The way you think is what you become. You see, the battlefield is in your mind. And that is what the enemy is trying to gain, your mind. That is what Paul says in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to the ways of the world, but be transformed by the (what?) the renewing of the mind.”
And so when the Word of God is your direction, you start to believe it. You start to trust in it. You are not ashamed of it. When you talk about it in public and your friends make fun of you and the whole world looks like it is going down stream and you are the only one going upstream, you stand on it and you are not ashamed of it.
So here is an interesting truth. Maybe the reason you have wandered off course is because somewhere along the way, you started entertaining ungodly counsel, ungodly advice and you don’t even know how it happened. You see, when the heart’s affection is influenced by the mind’s attention on the Word, you will see transformation. Let me say it again. When the mind’s attention is on the Word of God, the heart’s affection will follow. Maybe the reason you are so cold to the things of God, maybe the reason (watch this) you feel like you are distant from God is because your head is not in the Word. Keep in mind, head and heart for the Jewish mind are synonymous. In the Old Testament when he says the heart, meditate on it day and night, the heart is the mind. I have hidden your Word in my heart, David said, he means his mind. The mind controls the body, right?
So there are two options for living, the Psalmist says. Now watch this. There are two outcomes for our choices. There are two outcomes for our choices. And what he is about to show us is, the way you choose to…young people, listen to me, the way you choose to live your life and build your life now will determine where you are heading. Can anybody testify, a little bit older, testify to that? Some bad decisions now, although they may seem insignificant, will put you as far as over 600 miles off course when you finish the race. And I can attest to that myself, right? Because sin always takes you further than you want to go, it keeps you longer than you want to stay and it makes you pay a higher price than you want to pay. Always, always!
So what he says is, here are the two outcomes and he starts with the positive. I love this. He says, “The man is like a tree of water…a tree of water…he is like a tree planted by streams.” Like of tree of water…I have never seen that one. But he is like a tree planted by streams of water. Now circle the word streams. “Its leaf does not wither. And all that he does, he prospers.” It is an amazing picture here.
The tree was the strongest, most fortified, stable image in the Jewish mind and they would have seen them everywhere. The tree is always a picture of stability. No matter what happens in life, the tree that has deep roots and wide branches will stand the test of time. Now what is odd is that the tree is planted (get this) by streams of water…not one but streams of water. Water in the Bible is connected to two things, the Word of God and the Spirit of God. The Word of God is a cleansing agent. That is what the Word does. It is like water. The Spirit of God is nourishment for the soul. They are the two spiritual parents in the salvation event in your life. The Word of God and the Spirit of God.
But what should strike you as odd, church, come in real close, is the fact that the Psalmist says there are streams of water. And if you are like me, I have never seen a tree planted by streams of water. I have seen a tree by a bank of water. I have seen a tree by a body of water. But have you ever seen a tree by two streams. It is so rare, we couldn’t even find a picture to show you! Poor Jared, he searched, and he said, this is all I have got, Pastor. I said, well, put it up, that is all we have got. That is all we have got. We couldn’t even find a picture to show you, right? Because here is what I think the Psalmist is saying, (I love this), the only way a tree can be planted by streams of water is if it is placed here. You see the stream is living and active. And the picture here in the text, it is an irrigation canal. You will love this. It is an irrigation canal with water on both sides and you almost can picture the trees in a line as far as you can see. The tree was planted by the farmer.
In the language of the New Testament, that word “planted” could be interpreted as “transplanted.” You see, this isn’t a tree in the wild. This isn’t a tree in the woods. This is a tree where the farmer has uprooted and given a new environment where the roots can go deep and the leaves can go wide. And I love the tree motif because it is all through the Bible.
Do you know the Bible begins with two trees and it ends with one tree. God says, here are two trees. One of them, don’t touch. You know what happened there. And here is the last thing we hear about in Revelation 22. John says, “I looked up and I saw this, down the middle of the broad street of the city, down main street, this is what he saw…the tree of life was on both sides of the river bearing twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit every month, the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
This is what he is saying. You want to be firm in the face of a changing culture? You want to be stable in your life? Do you want your marriage to be stable? Do you want your children to grow up firm and fortified? Then build your life on the Word of God. No matter what happens to you, the culture…listen, the hot topics I picked are just hot today. Fifty years ago, they were different topics and fifty years from now, there will be different topics. But it doesn’t matter what the topics are. When you base your life on the Word and your roots go deep and your branches go wide, it doesn’t matter what life throws at you because you will stand firm.
You want to know the greatest practice you can begin to do for your children? The greatest practice. It will be greater, and I hate to say this, it will be more impact than listening to me preach every Sunday for the rest of their life. I hate to say that, but it could be. You teach your…because listen, kids are watching more what you do than what you say. Wouldn’t you agree? My son, he picks up everything I do. I don’t even know I do things and he picks it up.
Next time your life falls apart, next time your life crumbles before your eyes, don’t call an unbelieving family member to get advice. Don’t even go down…don’t even turn on the television. Don’t go to the internet. Take your children to the Word of God and say, lets see what God says about this. You lose a loved one. Lets see what God says about this. You get fired from your job. Lets see what God says about this. Your son gets bullied at school, lets see what God says about this. They get in trouble for sinning. Lets see what God says about this. You will do more in a few moments than I could ever do in a few years just preaching the Word. Why? Because they see you going to the ultimate compass of direction for your life.
Now here is the flip side. There is a flip side. There is an alternate choice. If you listen to the world, you will eventually be like the chaff. The chaff or the loose hulls that are on the outside of grain or wheat. If you take the grain and you rub the grain together either through threshing or twisting your hands back and forth, rubbing your hands back and forth, the loose hulls will blow away. They are very fragile. It is insignificant, if you will.
Jesus, on one occasion was criticized by the Pharisees for working on the Sabbath. Remember, His disciples were rubbing the grain because they were hungry. And so that is this picture here. And it is a great contrast between fortitude and stability and security and uncertainty and wavering and being tossed by the winds to and fro.
And I think it comes down to this. You see, this series that I am about to preach, it really comes down to two things. This is it, the whole series. Every topic I preach will come down to two things. Are we going to believe what God’s Word says about this particular issue or are we going to influenced by man’s opinion? That is all it comes down to. That is all it comes down to. Are we going to listen to the opinions of man in the world, or the Word? And I picked some hot topics, and these are hot topics…let me just give you a disclaimer. You are going to come jazzed up, you are going to be whizzed up for these topics, right? Why? Because this is where you live. We all are affected by all of these topics. I mean, I am going to talk about living together before marriage. So if you are doing that, come back, we want you to come back because I want you to hear what God says. Don’t say, well, we are not going to these topics. No, you need to hear what God says about this.
People say, I can’t wait to hear what you preach on this. No, you don’t. You don’t want to hear what I have to say. And pray for me so that I am not saying what I want to say. I want to say what God says, because that is what you want to hear from God.
So we are going to preach about co-habitation. We are going to preach about how Paul said “Singleness is the greatest way you can glorify God and advance the kingdom.” Being single. Now that is a cultural issue that we never hear because high school girls are indoctrinated with this idea that you have to get married when you are young and find your soul mate. And I am not against marriage because hey, I love marriage. But hear what I am saying. We never talk about this, right?
We are going to talk about pornography. Seventy percent of men deal…have pornographic issues. Forty percent of pastors have seen or looked at pornography in the last month. Forty percent of men who stand behind this pulpit. God help us.
We are going to talk about divorce and remarriage. We are going to talk abut when it is okay to be remarried. Is it okay to be remarried? Or the Biblical grounds for divorce.
We are going to talk about homosexuality and it is not going to be what you think it is going to be. We are going to talk about what is God’s view on it.
We are going to talk about abortion. We are going to look at suicide. We are going to look at gambling. We are going to look at alcohol, marijuana and politics. Okay? I knew that would get a rise out of some.
And let me give you the disclaimer, I want you to come, prayed up and prepared to hear from God, with a listening ear and a softened heart because this is the problem for all of us, including me. We have been infected by unbiblical, ungodly counsel about particular issues and sadly, some of you have bought a bag of goods that is heresy just because this is what you think. I think, too, as well. We have been influenced by this. And so, it is past teachers or it is churches we were in, or it is the secular society or it is the news media or it is the liberal papers or it is the internet. You know, if it is on the internet, it has to be true, right? Not. I can’t tell you how many times people say, well, I read that on the internet. Yeah, right.
But anyway, so we come with a softened heart and listening ears because we want to hear what God has to say. And I want you to wrestle with this. I want you to think about it. And at the end of the day, I want you to say, am I going to follow God’s Word or man’s opinion? That is all it comes down to. And I know it is going to be tough. It is going to be tough because we live in a society of people that bend the knee to worldly insights and secular morals and ideals of this country.
But I want you to know, it is no harder today than it was back then when Jesus left. Can you imagine how difficult it would have been if you were one of the eleven that Jesus hand-selected to now take this message to the world in a paganistic cultural society influenced by the Romans and Hellenism. And for just a moment as we close, I want to take you back into the mind of what it would have been like in the First Century after Jesus ascended and you trying to live a godly life to honor God. Imagine how difficult this would have been.
Your name is Yokanon, John in English. You live on the side of a desert, Beth Sheon, lets say. Beth Sheon is a hustling, bustling, paganistic, Hellenistic town. It was influenced by Alexander the Great and Hellenism. Now feel the weight of what is happening in Beth Sheon to see what you are navigating. Am I going to follow the Word or the world? I have to give you a short history lesson, if you will, on Hellenism.
Alexander the Great, I want to submit to you, in my opinion was the greatest military leader to ever walk the face of the earth. Now that is a bold statement, I know, but follow me for a moment. Alexander the Great decided to control towns and regions by a different strategy than anyone before him or even after him. You see, he didn’t come in with brute force and force people to bow down, like the Philistines or even the Babylonians. See, when the Babylonians would come in, they would say, bow the knee or suffer the consequences, which could have been persecution, imprisonment or death. The Romans did the same thing. They decided to come up with this imperial worship. Either worship the emperor or you die. It was pretty simple.
Alexander the Great did something different. He said, I am not going to influence you avertly, I am going to influence you covertly. It is going to be under the radar. It is going to be manipulative. And in 333 he conquered the whole known world. At that time, he conquered Judea, which is appropriate for our talk this morning. In 330, he comes into Judea, 333, and he captures Judea. And he implements Hellenism with a system that is culturally different than anything they have ever observed. Why? Because he says, you don’t have to be forced to follow what I believe. I am not even going to make you do that, I am just going to entice you to do that. And it is going to be subtle, when you realize it, it will be too late. He gave a self-serve buffet, if you will, of options. He just enticed you with options. Just open your mind and let me tell you about the world.
And so he did it in four ways. You can write them down. The first one is education. The second one is athletics. The third one is information or the media and the fourth one is entertainment. Education, athletics, information, entertainment.
Let me take them one by one and show you how eerily similar they are to us. So he comes into Judea and he says, hey, listen. I am not going to force you to be educated in our system, but let me just set up outposts to disseminate information so you can learn about the world. Now, you have to understand, Jews cared little about world history. They weren’t concerned about the culture of the world. They were concerned about themselves, the nation of Israel and the one true God. Right? They followed God’s direction and they were trying to please God. And so Alexander the Great said, listen, that is fine. And he set up libraries all throughout the region with influences of writings and books about the world. He taught them about world religions. He taught them about world history. He taught them about astronomy and things of the air and the stars of the sky. But he did it with a different take, a different bent.
Now the Jews at that time, they studied one book. They couldn’t take an elective like astronomy or biology or even science. There we no electives for them. They had the Torah. You could elect to take the Torah or you could elect to take the Torah which was God’s Word. And why would you not want to study God’s Word. God’s Word had everything you needed to live. And so at the age of five, most boys and girls got in the Bate Zaphora which was the house of the book, the first level of study. And by the time they got out of it at the age of ten, many men and women, ten year old boys and girls, could quote from memory the entire books of the Torah. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
Is it any wonder that if you would have gone to a Jewish synagogue back then and you would have saw the Torah attendant approach the Torah closet to take out the scrolls, as he walks out with the scrolls, if you have been there, it is no wonder to see many people dancing for joy as the Word of God is brought out. People openly weeping because the Word of God is going to be read and presented to them. Why would they not? This is God’s Word. This is not words on a page or letters on a scroll. This is the Word of God. And God hasn’t left them to figure it out themselves. He has given them direction. And so they wept and they danced and they praised Him.
How different is our society today? How far have we strayed? And so he would influence them. He would say, hey, you don’t have to stop studying the Torah. You can study that. Just come study Greek gods and goddesses. Come study how the world really began. And let me tell you how it really ends, right?
And so you are Yokanon on the side of a desert and you are trying to decide, am I going to be infected by the world system or am I going to stay true to the Word? And the problem is, by the time you keep entertaining these thoughts, it is too late. You are already poisoned.
Athletics. Alexander the Great created the sporting event. I mean, they created the games. The precursor to the modern day Olympics was the Isthmian games and you had to run and you had to prepare ten months and you ran naked when you ran. Now why would you run naked? For two reasons: one, you didn’t want to be hindered down with any weight, but two and more importantly, why would you cover the body. You see, the epitome of humanism and Hellenism is the human body. That is the ultimate reality, the crowning jewel of creation is the body. It wasn’t God. It was the body that was the ultimate form of worship. Why would I hide the body?
Why do you think so many statues, if you look back in time, are naked? Because that is the ultimate form of worship. It is not God, it is man! And so these men would run naked. It said that the Levitical priesthood had become so corrupted in Jerusalem because of the Olympic Games that they could not carry out the normal priestly duties in the Temple of Jerusalem because they didn’t have enough priests because they had crossed the river to the Decapolis to watch naked men compete in an area. And one scholar said that is the reason, one of the reasons, that the Essences started. They had gotten so sick of the lies and corruption that they said, we would rather go out in the desert and swallow sand and endure 120 degree sweltering heat than stand and watch this hypocrisy. If God strikes this place down, then I don’t want to be a part of it.
And friends, that is the scene that Jesus comes into. I mean, here is the stage I am painting for you that Jesus walks into.
Information. Information. He said, Listen, let me just educate you with information. The media. So he set outposts to share information about the world. Let me tell you what is happening in Rome and in Greece and the Middle East. Let me just tell you what is happening around the world. And let me teach you about art. Expand your mind. And music. Hey, let me just import some rugs for you to purchase and some commodities. And what about some pottery. Oh, look how amazing these vases are! And it looks insignificant on the surface, but don’t miss this. It was a subtle attempt to take one’s mind and affection off the things of God and to wander into the things of man.
And they began reading papers that we so liberal they weren’t worth the paper they were printed upon. The Greek Times Free Press, right? The Roman New Today. I mean, they started to get infected by this. And it was so subtle. By the time they realized they were poisoned, it was too late.
And the final one was entertainment. They created plays. They created the comedy and drama. In fact, if you look at our modern theaters today, they are still organized in a similar fashion as the Greek system, all the way back in Jesus’ time. It so impacted the people of God that Jesus Christ Himself borrowed a Greek term from the plays to describe the hypocrisy in Jerusalem. Matthew 6, Jesus said, Verse 1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness to be seen by men…practicing righteousness before men to be seen by them because if you do, you will have no reward in heaven. You hypocrites. That Greek word hupocretos is the Greek word for the English word “hypocrite,” and it is the word picture for a box of masks on the side of a stage attached to a piece of wood, a stick. And what happened is, the actors would perform. They would go to the side of the stage. They would pick a stick up with a mask on it and they would play a particular part. When they were finished with the part, they would put the mask back in the box and pick up another mask and they would play the part. And so the hypocrite became known as someone who was acting differently than who they were.
The Greek language had influenced the world that the Bible was written in Greek. This guy was a master of influencing people. In 33 B.C. I found out that Herod the Great built a theater and it was a regular thing to see men, Greeks and Jews wrestle naked in this theater for anyone who wanted to see. It was very common to hear lewd off-color words or crude words and to see sexual innuendos and they would perform sexual acts before all to see, for the theater. And you are saying, that is the craziest thing in the world.
Well, guess what that did? That four-fold strategy began to reduce their tolerance on what was right and what was wrong. You see, watch this, church. They started to trivialize and minimize the things of God. And they started to say things like, well, it is really not that bad. Is it really that bad? And I will prove it to you.
We are not influenced by Hellenism today, we are influenced by Hollywood. And it is strangely similar how if you spell the words out, they almost spell the same. Hollywood in the system in the world culture that it infected us with. America’s favorite pastime is football, and don’t get me wrong, I love football like the next guy. But if you wake up on Saturday morning and your heart’s affection is drawn more to a football game than you are to meeting with the saints on Sunday morning, you need a checkup from the neck up. I am just going to be honest with you right? Because that is ungodly. Hey, I love football, too. But it shouldn’t rule our lives that we would become so infected by it that by the time we realize it, it is too late, right? And it is not just professional sports, it is travel ball and select soccer and I love all these things. But if they come in the way of your relationship with the Lord, you need to check that out. And it is sporting events and it is high school events.
Information. If you don’t believe that liberal media has high jacked our information, just turn on the television. And I don’t care which station you watch, they are all slanted. Okay. I don’t care which station you watch, they are all slanted to prove an agenda that they want you to believe in, right? And we don’t even know what is right or wrong anymore, right, because it is all slanted.
Educational. Entertainment. I mean, think of the entertainment today. You used to be able to go to the movie and PG-13 was at one time a place where you could bring your teenager to. Things have changed. You can’t anymore. Friends, the movies are so bad with sexual innuendos and off-color comments now that what is sad is, there was a time in your life that you wouldn’t entertain to even listen to that, but now you sit at a movie screen and you listen to words that you would never say and you watch acts that you don’t put up with, all in the form of entertainment and you justify it and say, and even worse, you pay for it. You just pay for it to continue the process. And the problem is, we have been so dumbed down and we have dumbed down our standards that by the time we realize it like today, it is almost too late. And if you don’t believe me, just turn on the television at night. You can’t even watch TV anymore at night with your kids in the room. At least, I can’t, because they are going to say something or show something. And that is society. But Robby, everybody else is doing it. That is right, but you are Yokanon on the side of a mountain. You are John and you are trying to figure out, do I get sucked into the system of corruption that is hustling and bustling down the street, or do I follow the one true God? That is the question.
And our education system has been jacked up for years. If you don’t believe that just listen at what your kids are being taught, that the place that we are standing upon on this planet came together because of worlds colliding millions of years ago. And that man descended from a baboon. Really? I mean, come on. There are intelligent people who actually believe this garbage. And we have trivialized born-again so-called Christians that believe that. And we have trivialized the parts of the Bible in the beginning like the flood. Did He really flood the whole earth or did the fall really take place. Or did Jesus really walk the earth? And what happens in this, we begin to lower our tolerance to accept lies.
And do you know what is sad? Is that it doesn’t happen overnight. You didn’t get here overnight. And some of you are wondering, how did I even get here? How did I even get here? It is a slow fade, right? It is just slow. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, right? Slow fade. Slow fade. And then you realize, you are so far off course.
The Christian group Casting Crowns, I think captured it best when they put out that song a couple of years ago, Slow Fade. I love the words. It is a slow fade when you give yourself away. It is a slow fade when black and white have turned to grey. Thought invade, choices are made, a price will be paid when you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day. It is a slow fade.
The journey they say from your mind to your hands is shorter than your thinking. That is so profound. They are saying, you think what you are thinking doesn’t effect your life. It effects everything you do. The journey from your mind to your hand is shorter than your thinking. Be careful if you think you stand because you just might be sinking.
So let me ask you, where are you at in life? Are you walking with the Lord? Do you feel a nearness to God? Do you feel like the Bible is the textbook for your life. It is the road map for everything you do? Or, maybe you look back on your life and you say, Robby, if I am going to be honest with myself this morning, I realize there was a time I was walking if not running after God, but that is not the case anymore. And I can’t even put a finger on how I got here, but I am walking anymore. I am standing in the counsel of ungodly people. And for some of you, even worse, you are sitting or squatting with the wicked, those who mock God and laugh at God.
Do you feel this morning that maybe God is distant from you? Do you feel this morning that maybe God seems far from you? Do you have a lot of questions to these topics. Pastor, I don’t even know what to do or how to navigate this. Then if you have answered yes to any of these questions, this series the next few weeks is for you. And I encourage you to come back because some of you need to be grounded and headed in the right direction. You see, what seems like an insignificant degree right now, watch this, just an insignificant degree right now in magnetic north could land you as far as 600 miles off course at the end of time. Scientists say that you can wind up that far apart. Don’t reduce the significance of God’s Word in your life. Don’t minimize or trivialize God’s Word.