What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
We are not helpless against the evil desires of our human nature. We can do several things:
1. Recognize that human beings have an unstable, insatiable nature. Ecclesiastes 1:8 says, "All things are full of labor; man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing." Being aware of this biblical truth can give us a better grasp of what we are dealing with. Do not be deceived; happiness is a fruit of true spirituality. God has not put the power into anything material to satisfy man's spiritual needs.
2. Seek God first. Our Savior advises in Luke 12:15, 31: "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. . . . But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you." Paul adds in Colossians 3:1-2: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth."
We must purposely and deliberately study, pray, fast, and meditate. Further, we must consciously practice God's way of life. This takes sacrifice and discipline, but it fills the mind with the kind of thoughts that will eventually make it impossible to sin.
3. Hate covetousness, not things. Proverbs 28:15-16 states, "Like a roaring lion and a charging bear is a wicked ruler over poor people. A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor, but he who hates covetousness will prolong his days."
It is very helpful to observe what covetousness produces. Some sins are clearly understood, but covetousness is generally less easily observed, requiring careful attention to comprehend the very beginning of many sins. Making such observations is helpful in evaluating the self. We need to remember that coveting violates the basic principle of God's way of outgoing concern. It also keeps us from listening to God, so we must be attuned to detect its presence.
4. Learn to be cheerfully generous. Luke records Paul saying in Acts 20:35, "I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" The apostle adds to this thought in II Corinthians 9:6-7: "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver."
We need to keep in mind that we have such an abundance of self-concern mixed with a natural fear that, if we give things away, we will not have enough. God intends that we overcome these fears. Self-centeredness must be excised from our character. Working on it is an excellent discipline.
5. Learn thoroughly what grace teaches. Titus 2:11-14 tells us what this is:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
Isaiah 1:16-17 adds, "Cease to do evil, learn to do good."
Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the power that motivates us to sin. He gives His power to those who strive to overcome the remnants of their old nature. Certainly, it is a tough and in many cases a long process, but with God's help, if we make the efforts, we can overcome it.
The dynamic of this new life is the coming of Jesus Christ first to us by His Spirit and then to this earth to rule it. When royalty is coming, everything is made spit-and-polish clean and decorated for the royal eyes to see. That is what we are doing: The Christian is one who is steadfastly making himself ready for the arrival of his King.
To this end, let us strive consistently and mightily to think the right thoughts that produce right conduct.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Tenth Commandment
First, note that these people, spiritually, were so far from God that they did not take the first warning, the burning that took place on the outskirts of the camp (Numbers 11:1). It was just a little thing from God to say, "Hey, wait a minute. You need Me. I am giving you the manna, and if it was not for that, you would die. Not only that, I was the One who gave you freedom." But how quickly they were forgetting.
What is the lesson here? They wanted variety; they felt they were leading a monotonous life. The Bible records no particular occasion for the beginning of their complaint except that they were bored with what they had to eat. Their words express dissatisfaction with privations incurred on their journey through the wilderness.
We are to learn from that. It is the Old Testament's form of whether or not we are willing to bear our cross—whatever comes upon us as a result of our repentance, our baptism, our receipt of God's Spirit, our entering into the covenant with Jesus Christ, and being His slave! Are we really willing to be His slaves and take what He dishes out?
What they wanted was food that had a sharper, more distinctive flavor, something more stimulating than manna, which tasted like pastry. They wanted cayenne powder, hot sauce, onions, garlic, spice. They wanted sauces and herbs for flavor that add a dimension to eating that otherwise would not be there.
It is interesting how quickly our taste can become perverted. Many people, for instance, put far too much salt on the foods they eat. Observe this the next time you are in a restaurant: There is a good chance that you will see diners pick up the salt and pepper shakers and shake them over their meals before they even taste the food. It is an ingrained habit, and their taste has become perverted.
That is what happened to the Israelites. They did not comprehend that God was feeding them angel's food, as He calls it in Psalm 78:25, the best possible diet they could get in their circumstance. Would we expect God to supply anything less than the best for the situation? Because He is a God of love, He will always do the best for us in every circumstance.
He was doing that for Israel, but their taste was perverted and so they were unwilling to be content with what God was supplying. Therein lies the lesson for us. Are we content with what God is supplying, or are we looking for stimulation that Christianity seems to lack? Are we looking for an edge? Are we craving flavor in our lives? Are we looking for something out of life in the way of entertainments or social contacts that we feel we are being denied because we are Christians? Do we feel this "privation" is a cross we are unwilling to bear? The lesson from these people is, if such a desire begins to gnaw at us, there is a chance we will give in to intense craving and begin complaining to God.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10
Kibroth Hattaavah means "the graves of greediness." Their sin was not just in giving in to their craving. Their sin was they doubted God's ability to supply and they doubted His concern for their welfare.
Understand that God's concern for us is just as great after His calling as it is before. He is still working out His purpose, and He will supply our need. Remember, though, when God gives us what we desire and pray for, it does not necessarily mean that it is a blessing, as in this situation when the "blessing" turned out to be the instrument of death. It is a sobering lesson to keep in the forefront of our minds. Our prayer should always be, "Not my will but Yours be done. God, please remember I am just human."
Human nature is never satisfied. It is filled with self-concern and does not know what is best for it. What it lusts for may even lead to that person's spiritual death. It makes us think that the grass is greener on the other side and that there is more and better in something else, something new and exciting. And when lust is involved, anticipation is always greater than realization. There is a law of diminishing returns at work in this universe that perversion lessens rewards. The Israelites had a perverse craving for tasty food, and their reward ended up being death. Human nature is something we are always going to have to deal with in this life.
God was not dealing with these people in terms of salvation as He is with us. The lesson for us is not to let these cravings—even desires for good things—take our eyes off the goal and the reality of what God is doing for us.
Jeremiah 10:23-24 says that the way of man is not in him to direct his steps. We have to understand that, when we come to God, we are admitting to Him through repentance that our salvation is not internal—it is not something we can produce. In the same vein, the right way to live is not within us. It must come from outside, and that "outside" is God. Thus, we ask God to direct our steps. At baptism, we are asking God to make us into the image of Christ and to rid us of the perversions of human nature that have produced this world.
The experience of the Israelites shows us that, when the going gets unexpectedly rough and hardships occur—say, in the area of tithing, that we have not been blessed to the extent we feel we deserve, or in the area of Sabbath, that we lose our job and cannot find another—and then we have an intense craving for something and begin to look back at our former situation, we can also begin to lust for the very things that not long before we considered to be expendable and holding us in bondage.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10
Verse 10 is essentially saying that God is sovereign, and some things that He has established cannot be changed. Naming a thing is an indication that the thing so named is set. This is why the principles given in John 4:34 and Psalm 16:11 are so important to the converted. Being in God's presence is the overall solution. These statements by Jesus and David give assurance that contentment in life lies within the combination of properly blending the knowledge of God's purpose and deliberately choosing to live according to that purpose within a relationship with our very Creator.
This combination is what makes everything in life matter in a positive way, producing satisfaction and contentment in life. In this three-verse section, Solomon addresses four situations that revolve around not getting much in the way of these qualities from life because people do not give of themselves sufficiently to make the relationship work. Each verse, rather than answering, produces questions that, with a brief explanation, are helpful. If one does not get answers he can accept, then dissatisfaction and discontentment remain.
The questions that arise in these verses are expressions of justification that a converted person might give himself for not zealously throwing himself into the relationship with God. They are for the most part expressions of doubt that linger to support the lack of progress.
Solomon touches on five questions. The first is based in verse 10: “Since what's going to be is going to be, why bother to make decisions? Isn't it all predestined anyway?” This is broadly why some will not really cooperate with God in a relationship. Martin Luther gave this German proverb: “As things have been, so they still are; and as things are so shall they be.” In other words, the proverb is asking if there is anything we actually control. Things are so far from our control, why make an effort?
In this verse, the One “mightier than he” is God. We must firmly accept that God can indeed accomplish His purposes without our cooperation. He does not need us, but He most assuredly loves us! God indeed has “fixed,” that is, named what He will accomplish, but He has also given us free-moral agency.
We must know that the world we live in is not a prison. We are free to evaluate and then choose what our personal world will be, but we are not free to change what the consequences of our actions will be. This is why we should give everything thoughtful consideration. Stepping off the roof of a ten-story building may be our choice, but once we commit ourselves and do it, there is no altering the outcome! The reality is that our choices do make a great deal of difference. Like everything in life, they matter.
The second question is also based in verse 10. Why disagree with God? We cannot oppose Him and win, can we? This question suggests that God's will is difficult, painful to accomplish, and should be avoided at all costs.
Compare this with what Jesus says in Matthew 11:29-30: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Add to this what He says earlier in His ministry about doing God's will being nourishing and energizing to a Christian (John 4:34). Why would anyone, making a fair analysis by comparing God's way with his self-chosen way and seeing what mankind has produced in this world, rather have his own way rather than God's? That makes no sense whatever!
If God really wanted to make life truly difficult, He would give man absolute freedom. It really builds satisfaction and contentment, right? No, not at all.
Like Job, we must know what our limits are, and one of them is that we do not have the wisdom to out-think and out-talk God. We must truly realize that the more we talk, the emptier our words become, which is exactly what happened to Job. This leads to the fact that humanity must accept that God, as sovereign Creator, is free to act as He sees fit in every situation. Such acceptance will help to produce the contentment that mankind yearns for.
The third question appears to be drawn from Solomon's many words in writing this book, in addition to all the words we might hear in sermons and the like. He asks, “What do we accomplish with all these words? Does talking about it solve the problems?”
Verse 11 in the New International Version reads, “The more words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?” Are we not receiving a thorough education in this as we listen to all the convoluted political and economic arguments in recent times? Yet, these are all words of men. The Word of God is exactly what is needed because it is truth! God's truths do not bind people; they free (John 8:32). Satisfaction and contentment are the fruits of truth that is accepted and used. One must listen to God's Word and use it for satisfaction in life.
The fourth question arises from verse 12: “Who knows what is good for us?” This question is directly linked to the previous one. It brings to mind a saying that this same Solomon states twice, in Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”
Human history proves that without the knowledge of God, mankind finds himself satanically deceived, drifting forever on a vast sea of human speculations. However, God knows what is good for us, and He is willing to share it with His children. Without the knowledge of God's truth, life remains vanity, meaningless. God's Word says, “He who does the will of God abides forever” (I John 2:17)—in, I might add, satisfaction and contentment.
The fifth question also derives from verse 12: “Does anybody know what is coming next?” This question must be understood within the context of the entire book. It is not talking about small, day-to-day issues, but rather the huge ones that pertain to the overall purpose being worked out on earth. Of course, the answer is that nobody knows perfectly except for God. Everybody else's opinions are largely speculations. If God gave us more specific detail, it might severely damage the vital use of faith. He gives us enough information to keep us looking ahead and to encourage us to be patient and make the best use of the time that He gives us to prepare, because time is valuable.
The proper answer to all of these questions—especially if it is correct that they are self-justifications raised by converted persons due to a lack of growth—lies in one's use of the faith that God has given us to function within the relationship that He has opened to us.
Life is God's gift, and He desires that we spend it involved with Him, using our faith to prepare for an eternal relationship with Him in His Family Kingdom. This will produce the enjoyable satisfaction and contentment in life that He desires for us. Involving Him is the above-the-sun life.
If there is no Kingdom of God, and if no grand purpose is being worked out, then nothing matters except for what is happening at the moment. This mindset is tilted toward either humanism or secularism, and its fruit is the moral and ethical depravity of a Sodom and Gomorrah. Those with this mindset have nothing glorious to prepare for, so why should they deny themselves any pleasure, any excitement, that their minds and bodies desire right now? God's children, however, because they possess the faith, cannot allow themselves to drift into such a destructive mindset.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Seven): Contentment
What the Beast is doing now (and he must be alive and climbing the political ladder today) is working his subtlety wherever he happens to be, using people to create loyalty to himself and to his cause. At the same time, he is gradually undermining—introducing leaven, as it were—to the present governments, causing disloyalty to them, while simultaneously stirring up social trouble through political, justice, educational, religious, and social systems.
There is nothing new about any of this. This is what Adolph Hitler did to subvert Germany to his cause. It is what Lenin and his cabal in Russia did to subvert the Czar and his government in Russia. This is what happened in the Cold War, as nation after nation fell to communism: infiltration through fifth column efforts, which took advantage of internal conditions, bitterness, and dissatisfaction with whoever was in power.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What I Believe About Conspiracy Theories
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