Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones(Proverbs 3: 5-8).
Worldly wiseman, from John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress, informs the Christian that he need no longer burden himself with that “book” (the Bible) for he has a much more appropriate way to remove that pesky burden off of Christian’s back, “Why, in yonder village (the village is named Morality), there dwells a gentleman whose name is Legality, a very wise man, and a man of very good name, that has skill to help men off with such burdens as thine is from their shoulders;.” Indeed, there is mighty good to be found in the village of morality from whom Mr. Legality lives. Should any man or woman who praises virtue as a pillar to be built upon the foundations of eternality ought to admit, yes, there is goodness in work. Who are we without work? A dead faith according to St. James (James 2:17).
Neither the righteous seeking Christian or the virtuous practicing Pagan would argue against the value of feeding the hungry, healing the sick, clothing the homeless, or assisting the poor. Though today there are those who find that even the value of life, that of the person, is a deficit when compared to animals, plants, and other life outside of the human-being. Those blind and broken souls deny the Imago Dei. Absent from all three of these views, however different, are the wisdom of trust established in Proverbs. Doing good is never enough. Faith in the one true God can only save, heal, and progress the good man or the good woman.
We are called to not lean on our own understanding. That phrase to lean is sha`an in the Hebrew שָׁעַן which carried over into the English as a forewarning to not rest fully, to not support, to not rely on ourselves, but rather put all of our understanding, to invest all of our trust, in God.
It cannot mean we are never to rely on our understanding in the sense that I must doubt all that I think and do; that is an absolutist attitude of skepticism which the Scriptures are not advocating. If they were, we could not even rely on our own understanding of what the Bible is telling us. That would be foolish, rather the Proverbs are instructing us, as that is the literal meaning of Proverbs i.e. instruction. Solomon through the Wisdom of God is instructing believers to put their full and final faith in God, and for Christians’ in Christ the King, and never themselves.
Our world dictates to trust the Self, to value billionaires such as Warren Buffet or famous actors or a political leader. Trust thyself is the motto. Yes, there is plenty we can learn from such rich and powerful men like Buffett. Let there never be any doubt that Buffett knows how to invest money. But money and power will only last as long as the body is alive. Then shall all fade away from thy hands. No more, we are naked again, yet alive regardless of whether one believes in the Almighty or not. At that moment, their wisdom will be put to the test. God shall judge. And judge us all He shall.
Turning to the Lord requires a holy acknowledgement that only can be ignited by God in the midst of our pitch black, darkness of the night soul searching. Fumbling and bumbling we shall walk, but walk we must toward the light. Running from evil and calling out to the Lord are means to an eternal end, a life that is His alone. Once one is captured by the grace of Christ they are tied to the bosom of the Church by which Christ is King. Headship over heaven and earth; dominion over all that is and was and shall ever be. That is the wisdom that covers the believer. Do not fear the world, fear the Lord.
Like Noah, take cover in the Ark; let God seal the doors from the crashing waves in the rising floods. End will always be near whether it comes from war, famine, accident, or natural causes. Until the moment your eyes are shut once again, it is better to build a life that seeks the goodness of God than empires of gold, iron, and feast for they shall rot or rust. The world may be decadent today. But tomorrow is never guaranteed let alone a better tomorrow can always turn to worse. Only the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are eternal and always good.
We all have character flaws. The funny thing is I just recently considered making a list of my own. I didn’t even know exactly what qualifies as character flaws. There are literally hundreds of them as I searched through all the listed flaws I came upon a useful three-category explanation. What is funny is that these character flaws are for writers creating characters for either literature, movies, or television. Again, I am a theologian not a thespian. However, I think we can apply them to real life.
Minor character flaws are minor physical or mental quirks to a character’s personality. For example, you might have a someone that always seems to say the wrong thing or just makes for awkward conversation.
Major character flaws usually come from life-changing events that affected that person. For example, Jane Doe has a fatal flaw of putting others before herself or putting herself before others. This major flaw in her character nearly gets her killed dozens of times.
Fatal character flaws are the ones that make or break a character. These are flaws they must overcome or die. As Christians, do think we have any spiritual character flaws?
Today, I want to talk about spiritual character flaws. It is the fatal flaw of preaching a false gospel which we fine being proclaimed today. The reality of our situation is that true believers are becoming fewer and fewer. Meanwhile, false preachers, teachers, and apostates increase. The teachings that are being preached from pulpits today are conforming to the world. This means that Christians are turning their backs on God. Some do not realize they are doing so. Even worse many believe they are preaching the true gospel. But they are so distorted a misleading academia, a paranoid media, and brainwashed political ideologies that falsely proclaim Christ when in reality they are promoting a worldly agenda.
A well-known professor and pastor in my area of South Texas said on social media, “that the gospel is not enough anymore.” This was his response to the growing pressure for pastors to acknowledge and preach social justice plus the gospel. Is the gospel message of Jesus Christ no longer enough? Let’s hold that thought and we will be back to answer this fundamental question.
I used to worry that all my sermons were exactly the same and my congregation would grow tired of hearing the same message. Then I thought about the topics that are repetitive in my sermons. I am always preaching about Christ and everything leading to Him. That is all that I preach. Just in case, I double checked to ensure there are no other topics that should be preached other than a Christ-Centered one. There are no reasons other than Christ Alone. I wish I could say that false teachers were few. Unfortunately a false gospel has spread across the world time and time again just like this pandemic. Scripture has much to say about false teachers, false gospels, and false prophets proclaiming the Will of God. It’s not a matter of whether we are living in the end times because we are always living in them. We need not concern ourselves with the exact timing of God. Instead we need only be prepared, to be centered on His Word, fixated on Christ, and do our due diligence by preaching and defending the Scriptures. Therefore, we must recognize and point out the errors in false teachings and present the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“No Other Gospel”
Galatians 1:6-9 (KJV)
Accursed is repeated twice in Galatians 1:6-9. That word appears only six times in the entire Bible, two of which in this passage. God’s Holy Word states that anyone who comes and preaches another gospel, whether it be a man or an angel, he or she will be accursed. That is a serious word in our English language and it a very strong word in the Greek language.
“ANATHEMA (ä-nä’-the-mä) ἀνάθεμα” literally means a man accursed devoted to the direst of woes set apart for complete destruction of the cursed. The accursed person is doomed because they become so separated from Christ. The Apostle Paul declares in the strongest manner that the Gospel he preached was the one and only way of salvation and to preach another was an attempt to invalidate the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul explains that he received the Gospel directly from God. He did not invent it himself nor did he learn it from someone else. It was a divine revelation from Jesus Christ. A person, who does not love Jesus, will not never see glory. He or she will be cursed forever. In the passage above the word anathema is used twice meaning doubly cursed. Scripture is telling us that if someone preaches a false gospel they are going to be absolutely and forever obliterated from His existence. That is why preachers and teachers of God’s Word need to take His Word so seriously because there is a judgment for teaching or preaching something that is in violation against the true Gospel. Those doomed preachers are the ones who say, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and, in your name, perform many miracles? Then the Lord will say, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:22-23).
The Apostle Paul is never one to beat around the bush when it comes to the church and the Lord’s work. Paul preaches clearly on these points. He opens his Epistle by stating his name, then who the audience is, and goes right for juggler by declaring to the Galatians that they are cursed for preaching a false gospel and allowing false teachings into the church.
I used to work in insurance and financials where I had to pass a test to earn a certification. After that there was more testing and assessments. It was constant throughout the year. People needed trustworthiness, integrity, and due diligence from the people handling another person’s finances. Now consider handling and performing God’s Word, His ministry, and caring for His flock? There is more at stake as souls lay in the balance. No one has the right to tamper with the Gospel. When a pastor alters the Gospel, they have done a horrendous thing. They are robbing people of faith. Of hope. This is not the first time Paul had to address the church and call out a false gospel. Before telling the Galatian church, he told the Church of Corinth as 2 Corinthians 11:4 states,
Paul’s warning remains clear.
It was a problem in the church back then and it remains so today. Christians must stand up and take bold action against false teachings. There is more to this than losing your job or your friends or family members. Eternity is at stake. We must confront falsity not matter the circumstances or cost for their is no cost greater.
So what is the true Gospel?
The word “gospel” means “good news,” and the good news is that Jesus Christ came to this Earth born of a virgin. He was both fully God and fully human. Even though tempted and tried in every way He lived a sinless life. While all of humanity is absolutely guilty of sin. We are dead in our trespasses. No hope, but one. Jesus bore the punishment for our sins and offered His life as a living sacrifice on the Cross. A penal substitution; an ultimate scapegoat that relinquished the Judaic sacrificial system forever. Jesus Christ died, resurrected on third day, appeared before hundreds, then later ascended into heaven where he will return from heaven to earth one final day. Jesus promised that if you place your trust in Him alone, confess and repent your sins to Him alone, then you will be saved by His Grace Alone. Christ will prepare a room in His Father’s house for you that is His promise. Until His return Christ commanded us to make ourselves ready for whenever the hour comes by living sacrificially and sharing the Gospel with everyone no matter their creed or background in life. That’s the real Good News. Is the gospel message of Jesus Christ enough? Not just the Message, but the Messenger who gave us the Good News physically? Yes, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is enough because He is alive!
I want us to look at a few false gospels that are relevant because they are prevalent today. However, I must stress that we need only to be aware of false teachings and not indulge ourselves in a life of complete study of these false teachings and religions.
1st False Teaching: The Knowledge Gospel (Gnostic)
This would be the occultist, theosophy, esoteric and mysticism religions. Most of them basically have been adapted and come from Buddhism (also a false teaching). Just to name a few; the Wiccans, Nazi occultism, scientologist, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Nation of Islam.
2nd False Teaching— The Racial Identity Gospel
These are the preachers and teachers that believe only a certain race is chosen for salvation and the battle between good and evil comes down to racial divisions. Christian Identity, Black Theology, Pan-Africanism, Ku Klux Klan, White or black power it’s all the same false gospel. They preach a false white Jesus or black Jesus.
3rd False Teaching—The Quick-Fix Gospel- the Christian life is not a quick fix. It is a discipline, an art, a science.
4th False Teaching—Social Justice
Social Justice today has a political agenda and puts Christ secondary if not nonexistent. It tends to be more popular among clergy than laity and its leaders are predominantly associated with radical leftist ideologies.
5th False Teaching— The Politically Correct Gospel
Our contemporary culture expects us to tolerate, accept, and affirm all their radical beliefs and ideologies. Not only are we expected to affirm people, but we are expected to affirm their ideas and philosophies and, in some cases, apologize for having not done all of this in the first place. And in that spirit, it seems that a great many believers in our time have come to embrace the ideas and philosophies of the world. Remember what happened to that generation of people right before the flood? Christ said in Luke 17:26-27, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” Jesus was saying that whenever the philosophy of life becomes carnal and worldly (like in the days of Noah), He would return. The gospel is not politically correct. Now this doesn’t give us an excuse to be insensitive jerks. We ought to be marked by compassion and grace. We ought to love and respect people unconditionally regardless of their lifestyle or beliefs. But Christians have a duty and a work to perform through the Great Commission. We must declare the good news faithfully with due diligence and Christ-like integrity regardless of whether it is popular or not.
We must never forget that the Christian life is a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ. A man does not become a Christian merely by agreeing to a set of doctrines. He becomes a Christian by submitting to Christ and trusting Him forever. You cannot mix grace and works because the one excludes the other. Salvation is the gift of God’s grace purchased for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. To turn from Grace to Law is to desert the God who saved us.
(This article originated from a sermon preached Sunday Nov. 15th, 2020 by Brandon Galbreath and was formatted for reading purposes).
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight (Proverbs 9:10, ESV).
Ancient Greece had a maxim, “Know Thyself” most famously attributed to the philosopher Socrates. This aphorism serves a great and worthy purpose of encouraging self-examination. How often do we stop and reflect on our own nature? Not just asking, who and what we are, but truly trying to know ones personal faults and then seeking to improve, learn, and grow. Philosophy, philo meaning love and sophos meaning wisdom, is the love of wisdom and the seeking of truth. I attribute a great deal to philosophy and would defend her ideals as much as liberty and freedom, but I submit to you that as Christians we are called to first submit to God and His wisdom.
More Than Self-Care
Fearing the Lord in an age of fear and distrust of authority is not an easy sale for Millennials (my generation), Gen Z, and Gen Alpha who are sincerely seeking to make a difference; “our” maxim being “Change the World.” Our youthfulness and wishful thinking is far too often excused as merely laziness, naiveness, and narcissism; a fair criticism but hardly the whole picture of several generations being swept under a complex globalized world that has rapidly materialized more wealth, more goods, and more services than all of human history combined while simultaneously fragmenting “old” methods, standards, traditions, and opportunities. But let’s step away from the cultural and the political towards the Scriptural and Christ Centeredness.
Within the context of fearing the Lord, yir’ah, is a form of piety, respect, or reverence for God. John Gill’s, English pastor and theologian, explains that the converted state is a state of wisdom, a place of recognition of the Most High God and the active working of grace. Christ says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). Abiding, menō, a place in which the person is to be kept or to remain. That place is a place of salvation by which only though faith and grace can one be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9), but also that place is a place of wisdom that arises from that saving grace and faith. A working grace, a working faith that continues past the state of salvation. Our works matter in the eyes of God, for faith is active (James 2:14-26). Grace never ceases once salvation is accomplished (Romans 5:20-21) meaning a true believer seeks God and seeks to obey His command over their lives even when the Christian will falter, run, and even fall away for a time. Yet those of the vine will remain on the vine and Christ the Shepherd always brings His sheep back to the flock.
Today the term “self care” i.e. a place of spiritual, mental, and physical health focused entirely on ones well-being, is a central tenet of the age. Granted a great deal of narcissism can quickly overtake a person who focuses so much on themselves and never others; a place of complete aversion to hardship or sacrifice or pain is the roots of hedonism. However, ignoring your wellbeing is equally problematic when taken to the extreme of Asceticism which is also unbiblical. God cares about all of His creation. He desires goodness and wellness over them. Christianity needs to refrain from going to extremes when God condones a time for work and a time for rest. One of my favorite examples comes from the Prophet Elijah in Chapter 19 of 1 Kings verses 1-8:
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.
Over and over again in the Bible the people of the Lord in the Old and New Testament are sinners and saints who fail completely on their own, yet find success in their complete reliance on God. Saint Paul states clearly concerning “a thorn in his flesh” that:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
Do not ever feel “bad” when you need to rest and to take some time to “decompress” from the world and life’s situations. Know the difference between laziness and weakness, purposely forgoing for selfish reasons and a needed time to sleep or focus in preparation. Death is always with us from the moment of conception til the moment we die. The human body is eventually weakened to the point of death. There is no escaping our weakened estate. While the world ignores reality, Christians must learn to find joy in their weakness and eventual death.
Everything I have explained to you is a place of God’s wisdom, not my own. God’s word is a place of refuge, of hope, and of ultimate good. It is the responsibility of the Church to help all “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6: 33) or to say it differently, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever” which the Church is equipped to do. All of which is not “up to us” that is to say Christian’s are not capable of doing the work without the grace of God by which wisdom is birthed.
If Christ is not seeking sinners, humanity is doomed. And if the Church is not speaking to sinners then it has failed the Great Commission. There will always be issues that the Church must uphold and push back against, but no person is without sin nor should go without the hope of Christ and that means having a church full of saints and sinners. And having them over for dinner or going to them whenever and wherever in need. Love, Christ said, love God and love your neighbor as yourself are the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:36-40).
Knowing thy self will never be accomplished to its fullest extent without first knowing God. He will take you to the deepest and hardest of places but for your good and for His glory.
To my generation and the generations after me, if you want to change the world, then seek after God, His wisdom, and His kingdom first and foremost. Never allow differences to get in between you and that person at the sake of forgoing the Gospel which includes loving your neighbor. Christ died so that we may live! Do not mistake His sacrifice for a life without a true cause. Seek Him, Fear Him, and See Him work in your life and the lives of others. But also know, the God loves you and takes you wherever you are at in life. No person in all of human history has ever been “too dirty” or “too unclean” to be made anew. To be forgiven. To be loved. To be recognized as worthy. Christ can redeem all souls. Lastly, you can go forth in life sick and tired and broken and even get lost on your way, but like Elijah, Christ will find you and feed you and care for you without chastisement. Never fear your weakness. Know that your weakness was never the problem. All are weak, none are strong. The problem was and remains the placement of our weakness in relation to our reliance for the strength we seek. Placed properly in God first and you will be in the highest of strong towers. Seek His refuge, Know His Wisdom, and have His love pour over you like the finest oils and perfumes.
May God Bless You and Keep You Now and Forever. Amen.
Note: Moving the announcements to Monday’s. I think it will set the tone for the week. The next three weeks will be rather busy and full of travel for me. But I have plenty in store for you fellow readers as I take on the tasks of writing a book, blogging, and a vlog. So without further ado.
August 25 – A Poem
Description: To encourage the arts and humanities, I will be posting poems by me and others from time to time. Feel free to send me a poem and I just may share it on Truth In Focus.
August 27 – Virtue By Decree
Description: A blog series concerning the rule of law by virtue that governments, institutions, and families can choose to put into their own practices in relation to achieving “the good life” or Eudaimonia.
August 30 – A Word To The Wise
Description: A theological outlook on Christian Wisdom versus Worldly Wisdom in similarities and differences.
(After much delay I am happy to announce the return of AllThingsVeritas on Youtube! Interviews and several different Vlog series will be starting in the next month. Please join and like and be ready to learn and grow.)
Excerpt: “The horrific murder of George Floyd on May 25 sent America reeling. Opinions on racism, prejudice and justice have flooded our social media feeds and news outlets. Many see this tragedy as yet another instance of racism and oppression, but others insist that the statistics on police brutality and crime debunk that this event is connected to a larger problem.”
About: Kari Kurz is a freelance writer, thinker, and Christian speaker including the 2020 conference, GirlDefined. Kari works with young women and girls in finding truth in a world of confusion. She is a skilled communicator, planner, and researcher.