November 13, 2015

Three Misconceptions

1 Kings 18:1–46, Mark 10:17–52, Proverbs 4:8–17

Canada has a new leader, and elections are looming in the United States. I’ve been saying, No matter what bad things happen in the world, people usually blame the government. However, in some circles many bad things are blamed on God’s people.

This is not new. During the reign of Ahab in Israel, God raised up a prophet named Elijah. When Ahab saw him, he said: “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”

Elijah, known for telling it like it is, replied: “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” (1 Kings 18:17–19)

Ahab agreed to this challenge, but Elijah wasn’t finished. He said to the people, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

He then purposed a contest between himself as God’s prophet and the 450 prophets of Baal. He asked for two bulls, told them to make an altar and call to their god. He would do the same and all would see which one answered by fire, showing who was the true God. The 450 called on Baal for most of the day, but “No one answered; no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 18:29)

So Elijah made his alter, then he had water poured on the wood and the offering three times to make sure it was thoroughly soaked. He called out: “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”

At that, the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:36–39)

When I read this, I wondered what would happen if such a challenge were made to those who worship idols and accuse God’s people for causing all the trouble in today’s world. Would God send fire from heaven?

I think that Solomon’s advice is more likely the Lord’s answer to the righteous who are being blamed for evil. He said, “Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.” (Proverbs 4:13–17)

Rather than challenge atheists, skeptics, mockers, or demon worshipers, God wants me to keep my life clean and not do anything that associates my life with what they do. Psalm 2 says that God laughs at those who mock Him. He does not need me to challenge His enemies.

A second misconception is that eternal life is earned. Some point to incident in the life of Jesus where a man came to him asking, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He claimed to keep all the commandments.

Instead of telling him that eternal life is not by works but by grace through faith, Jesus challenged the man in the one area of his life where he was not obeying God. At that, the man realized he really was not keeping all God’s commands. When “he went away sorrowful,” Jesus said to his disciples, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

The disciples were astonished. They wondered how anyone could be saved, revealing that they didn’t get it either! In His answer, Jesus gave the bottom line about obtaining eternal life. He said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:17–27) Salvation is not a human activity. Only God can do what is impossible for us.

A third misconception is about leadership. We think leaders must be authoritative people who tell others what to do, but Jesus said, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42–45)

I cannot change the minds of people with those misconceptions. What I can do is worship God alone, be humbly secure in His gift of eternal life, and give my life to serve others.

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