Cursing … and the cross?

This week, the elders of Emmanuel Baptist Church would like to share with you this blog post written by Pastor Bill Morgan of Grace Baptist Church in Schreiber, Ontario.

If anyone among you thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:26-27)

While in Thunder Bay one day, waiting to get my new glasses adjusted, a retired gentleman walked up to the counter where I was standing. The employees were all busy with customers so we struck up a conversation. This man had intrigued my curiosity because he was wearing a very modest but striking wooden cross, about half the size of a cell phone. I wanted to make mention of the cross and what it has meant to me these past 38 years but I held off and the conversation turned to his working career as a welder. After a few minutes of exchanging words I was taken back by the “F-bombs” that were exploding out of his mouth with every other sentence!! It wasn’t my place at that time to challenge him about the contradiction he was presenting by cursing away and yet wearing a cross. Whatever religion this man possessed was a defiled one at minimum according to what God teaches in the Bible. James states that this man’s religion is not only useless but it is also impure and defiled. James also writes that an individual like this man, in his contradiction, deceives his own heart.

This man, wearing a cross and cursing his head off, proves to me what God says about each of us and our hearts’ condition before we each became a Christian through the new birth (spiritual birth). Before we were born again, my wife and I swore like troopers and guess what? My wife reminded me that, back then, she wore a cross and I wore a medal (probably a St. Christopher medallion). So what does God say about us back then, and this hypocrite now sporting a cross? “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it? I the Lord search the heart.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10) That man and all individuals need to know what the Lord Jesus Christ has accomplished for us by dying on that cross! “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He [God the Father] has made alive together with Him [Christ], having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14)

The cross (and Christ) must first be in your heart before you wear it on your body!

Pray Without Selfish Ambition

I was recently doing some reading in 2 Chronicles, and read something interesting. (See passage at end of this article or see 2 Chronicles 1:10-12 in your Bible). Solomon – who became King after his father, David – made a request of God at the start of 2 Chronicles. What’s interesting, is that his request had nothing to do with things of the earth. Not riches, not honour, nor any sort of prosperity. His request was that God would grant him wisdom and knowledge, so he could better lead the people. See verse 10 specifically.

I believe Solomon set a perfect example as to how we should pray as believers. Asking for those things which are godly, good, honorable to God, glorifying to God, edifying, and things that can further not only our walk with God, but to further the Gospel and advance His Kingdom. Things like wisdom, knowledge, discernment, self-control, patience, compassion, a Christ-like love, gentleness, humility, and overall, a desire to do God’s will and not our own. Things that are good and pleasing in the sight of God. Things that are for His glory, and not our own. Without selfish ambition.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t to say it is wrong or sinful to request healing of sickness and disease, especially for our fellow brethren. We should pray for each other in all aspects of life! But it is to say, that things like health and finances, are secondary. While things that are spiritual and eternal, are things that should be primary. After all, we’re told in Colossians 3:1-4 to set our mind on things above, not on things on the earth. Our focus is to be on Christ and things that can bring more glory to Christ. Again, that isn’t to say praying for health is wrong, just that it should be secondary to praying for spiritual things.

It is very easy for us to slip into prideful pray. Prayer that is “me” centered. Perhaps things aren’t going as you’d like in your life, in any aspect. God is sovereign. Let us pray in those times, things like “God, how can I bring You glory and honour in a time like this?” Perhaps your spouse is sinning against you (ultimately against God). It’s very easy to want to pray for your spouse, out of selfish ambition. Do we pray for them because we want to feel better? Or do we pray for them, because we want to see them bring honour and glory to Christ, and not sin against their King and Savior? What’s the motive? Do we pray for things because it’s our own will? Or do we pray that if it’s God’s will, that it be done? It can be a fine line, that I myself am guilty of falling into. We must pray out of a motive to want more glory and honour to be given to God, that should always be our motive.

Now, all that said. Is it wrong to have earthly possessions? I don’t believe so. But again, is it your focus? Idolatry seeps in from every angle, often very subtly! If God blesses us with money, or whatever else, what do we do with it? Do we use it for God’s glory? Do we use it wisely? I believe we’ve all been guilty at one time or another, of using what God’s given us unwisely. We must always remember to pray for wisdom in how to use things we have. Perhaps, pray that God would show you how you can use what He’s given you, for His glory and to further advance His Kingdom!

So then, it seems we can take a lot from that portion of Scripture. Are our prayers out of good heart, or out of selfish ambition? Let us remember, everything belongs to God. We are merely loaned things, to use for His glory. There are many false teachers now days, who teach a false prosperity gospel. A false gospel that is man centered, rather than Christ centered. That is focused on the things of this world, rather than the things of above. I’m sure most of you have heard it before: “God wants you to be healthy and wealthy. He wants you to have an abundance of riches!” These are the people spending millions of dollars on private jets, rather than using that money to live the heart of Christ. These are the people who are buying BMWs and Mercedes, rather than providing for the hungry and homeless. These are people who love earthly things, rather than God. Who make mammon their idol, rather than worshipping God. Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, you cannot serve both mammon and God, you cannot serve two Masters. You will either love one and hate the other.

So I say again, are our prayers out of wanting to see God’s will done, to see Him glorified and honoured, or out of selfish ambition, for wanting our will, not God’s? Let us always examine ourselves, making sure our motives are pure and earnest. That we are desiring things that will be pleasing to God, rather than pleasing to ourselves. Prayer that is humble, rather than selfish and prideful. God’s will be done, not ours. To God be the glory forever, Amen.

2 Chronicles 1:10-12
10 Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?”

11 Then God said to Solomon: “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king— 12 wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.”