“For we are laborers together with God: you are God’s husbandry; you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (KJV, 1st Corinthians 3:9-10).
“Let every man take heed how he builds thereupon”... We left off last week with the conclusion that we must strive always to see the world through objective eyes from the Center of all things. We established that the only way to do that was to accept Christ and pursue to know Him better with each passing day. But this is only the beginning of the equation; it is only the first step on a long path to wisdom and peace. It is only the initial act of our unending commitment to our Father, His kingdom, and His family. If you do not think so - if you think that accepting Christ is all there is, perhaps we should ask the Israelites. For they too, in a very real sense, accepted Christ. But it was hardly the end of their their duty.
The Israelites accepted salvation in the Book of Exodus by sacrificing the Passover Lamb and placing It’s blood on their doorposts, and were preserved because of that acceptance. The Israelites were also, as Paul tells us:
“baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (KJV, 1st Corinthians 10:2-4).
These people who, “were our examples to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted” (KJV, 1st Cor. 10:6), had accepted their savior; they had been baptized; they drank and ate from The Rock, yet their journey was far from over. In fact, their struggle was just beginning.
What do we glean from this? What do we take away from this people that suffered so much to be our examples, that we might, through the acquisition of wisdom and desire for truth, not fall into the same snares that destroyed them? What is our next step on this expedition into the wilderness of the world, now that we’ve accepted Christ and endeavored to know Him completely?
Our next step toward the eternal peace of mind Christ promises to those that follow Him is to desire truth. Again, don’t get lackadaisical on me here, this is not as easy as it sounds - at least not for me. The pursuit of truth is a lifelong practice of diligent reassessment. We must constantly be on the lookout for stagnation, assumption, and complacency - not so much in others, but in ourselves.
There is an account in Numbers 22 about a man named Balaam. To get us up to speed, Israel has camped in the plains of Moab (Numbers 22:1) as they move through the wilderness. They’ve conquered tribe after tribe and are cutting a wide swath through the countryside.
When the kings of Moab see Israel camped in their lands, they are immediately fearful, and send messengers to Balaam requesting that he come and curse this people so that the Moabites might conquer them.
“And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak. And he said unto them, ‘Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me:’ and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam. And God came unto Balaam, and said, ‘What men are these with you?’ And Balaam said unto God, ‘Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent unto me, saying, “Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which cover the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out.”’ And God said unto Balaam, ‘You shalt not go with them; you shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed’. And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, ‘Get you into your land: for the LORD refuses to give me leave to go with you’. And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, ‘Balaam refuses to come with us’. And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honorable than they. And they came to Balaam, and said to him, ‘Thus says Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: For I will promote thee unto very great honor, and I will do whatsoever you say unto me: come therefore, I pray you, curse me this people’. And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, ‘If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. Now therefore, I pray you, tarry you also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more’. And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, ‘If the men come to call you, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto you, that shalt you do’. And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab. And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him” (KJV, Numbers 22:9-22)
What can we glean from these verses?
1) We know Balaam knew God and heard from Him directly
2) We know God plainly told Balaam “No”
3) We know Balaam, at least in word, appeared to be a righteous servant
4) We know Balaam went back to God (though he had already been told “no”) when the Princes returned with a better offer
5) We know God, within the parameters of an applied condition, told Balaam he could go
6) We know when Balaam did go, God’s anger was kindled against him.
What do we take away from this account? Does God create loopholes so He can punish His children? Or is it perhaps that God “tries the reigns” to see what kind of metal we’re made of? Does He do it to be cruel, or does He do it to expose parts of our character that need edified so we might be better prepared for the eternity? Did this event not expose Balaam’s true character and self-love?
Balaam didn’t have to deal with the uncertainty of prayer that we often deal with today. He didn’t have to say to himself, “Well, was that a yes or a no?” Balaam heard directly from God. It was a simple condition. God said, “If the men come to call you, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto you, that shalt you do.” And with that, Balaam rose up first thing, saddled his donkey, and hit the road.
Balaam didn’t love truth. Balaam didn’t love God. Balaam was looking for the answer he wanted. And once he heard even a sliver of what he was angling at, he dropped every contingency and chased his idol with gusto. Am I judging him unfairly? It’s not my judgment he has to worry about. It is made abundantly clear in the New Testament just how God felt about Balaam:
“But these as natural brute beasts made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not, and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the daytime. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls; an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children; which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness” (KJV, 2 Peter 2:12-15)
It seems to be the nature of man (and this is a genderless statement) that once he gets the answer he likes, or the answer he thinks he’s looking for, he almost altogether quits looking. He puts that concrete answer on his little shelf of “I’ve got that one covered” and quite possibly never entertains the same thought again for the rest of his life. In his mind, that one is reconciled and need not be dealt with again. This is a dangerous practice.
I am not saying a Christian should go listen to a psychic who talks to the dead and entertain the information therein. I am speaking strictly of the perpetual pursuit and conscious allowance for the expansion of truth by the revelation of God through His Word and other means as He sees fit. And this is not to say you can’t learn a thing or two from any number of things in the world, but if it is contrary to Scripture, it is to be castaway.
God’s Word has conditions. In any particular Biblical subject, there are parts and contingencies scattered throughout the entirety of Scripture. Like a sower sowing seed, different parameters and aspects of any given topic have been thrown across the pasture of the Body of Christ with great precision, so that no casual observer might quickly gather the complete scope of any one topic.
The lazy mind will have no understanding of God’s Word; the self-serving student will stop short, once he believes he’s received the answer he was looking for to justify his own position and in that method be found wanting. Only those who spend their lives searching within Its pages and complexities will, with time and care, be given the layers of wisdom contained within. And even that only scratches the surface.
Look for no Cliff Notes here. This is not about simple, fast food answers or catchy marketing phrases to bring people to Christ. Coming to Christ is an ongoing journey from flesh birth, to flesh death and beyond. Hunker down - we’ve got a long road ahead - but the prize waiting at the finish line is eternal.
There is a smattering of Scripture that deals with the issue of desiring truth. God actually speaks quite harshly with regard to those who use His Word to serve their own purposes, and makes clear statements as to how He will respond to such behavior. Some do this consciously, others unconsciously - but the result is ultimately undesirable in either case. In 2nd Thesselonians 2 Paul warns us of:
“Even him (antichrist) whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they might all be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (KJV, 2nd Thess 2:9-13).
Here God has made clear that the “love of the truth” is absolutely necessary for salvation. And not only does God perceive one who doesn’t love truth as unrighteous, but will Himself send strong delusion upon them “that they should believe a lie”.
How can this be? Why would God do such a thing to His own children? I submit to you that those who have pleasure in unrighteousness are not His children. This goes to the heart of the matter. If we claim to love God, but do not act in a manner as such; if we claim we are His servants, but in reality serve only self, we are only fooling ourselves. We certainly aren’t fooling Him.
Don’t miss the fact that God said He would send strong delusion on those who CHOOSE to believe a lie. This word “choice” infers a knowledge in some form or fashion of the option to go one way or another. One cannot “make a choice” if they are not aware one can be made. It is the willful determination of a child to ignore the truth that God is addressing here. Ignorance is another matter entirely.
If we do not desire truth; if we do not love truth, then we have pleasure in unrighteousness. Because when we go into Scripture, we are either going in to find truth, or we are going in to find something that will make us feel better; or something that will make us right and someone else wrong; or something we can use to win an argument, or condemn a stranger. We are either going in to discover truth, and through that discovery draw closer to God, or we are going in to serve self. There is no in between.
And if we do not realize that truth, we are destined for deception. God will not only allow us to be deceived, but will quite possibly have a hand in our deception. Because if we do not desire truth, the truth is we do not love Christ; we do not serve Him, and we do not follow Him. For Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life” (KJV, John 14:6). If we claim to love Christ, but do not love truth, we, in my opinion, have never sincerely loved Christ at all. We have used Him as a crutch, not praised Him as a King.
Romans 1 goes deeper still into the progression of those that use the truth of God’s Word to their own ends:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness...Because that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hear was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, Who is blessed forever. Amen” (KJV, Romans 1:18-25).
In all honesty here, if we do not go into The Word to find totally unbiased truth, why are we going to The Word at all? We either do it because we love God, or we do it to serve “the creature more than the Creator...”
God takes this kind of practice very seriously. He has a particular disdain for those who claim to be His allies, but use His Word only to their own ends. If you would care to see just how seriously He treats this, and need a confirmation for 2nd Thess. 2:11, read the account of Ahab and Micaiah in 1st Kings 22:1-38.
There is no fooling the Heart Knower. If we spend our lives only going to The Word when we’re down; if we pray only when we need something; if we say we’re Christians only when we’re around those who won’t condemn us for saying so, what and who do we really love? What is our rock bottom motivator? If you can answer this question, you might just find an idol hiding where you never thought to look.
The only way to be sure that we love Christ, and the only way we can be certain we’re on the right track is to pursue truth even, and perhaps especially when it means pain or sacrifice to self. If we don’t do that, we will never be as diligent in our pursuit of understanding Scripture, as a lover of the truth would be. We will stop just as soon as we find what we want to find. We will quit at the first sign of creature-comfort. We will lay it down the moment we feel at ease. And if we do that, how are we different from the rest of the world?
The Israelites had truth. They had seen God’s handiwork before their eyes. They had seen their captors destroyed - swallowed by a parted sea. They had been led through the desert by cloud and flame, and yet they pursued their idols. They murmured against God after all He had done for them. They didn’t want truth. They wanted to be comfortable. They wanted to be fed, and clothed and watered. They wanted it so badly that they declared out loud that they should never have left Egypt. They would rather have stayed in bondage then walked a life in truth under the wing of the incorruptible God. And those who did such things received their reward, regardless of their prior “salvation”.
What about you? Which do you prefer? Is a little suffering too much for you in service to God? Did you think once you came into The Family, life would all feel like a parade? My brothers and sisters, I can promise you one thing: suffering is an absolute inescapable part of true Christianity. And on more than one occasion the truth does indeed hurt. But if you adhere to it; if you make the adjustment, it heals over so much better in the end.
Paul, when speaking of love, says, "Rejoice not in iniquity, but rejoice in truth." - This is the essence of a true love for our Lord.
Yet after we desire and pursue truth, what comes next? More on that next week.
In Pursuit of Truth,
Decisions Based in Christ