Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
’United in the Spirit While Completing the Assigned Task’
© November 22, 2015 by Steve Mickelson
Responsive Reading #661: The One True God (Acts 17); Prayer
Opening Hymn #79: We come, O Christ, to Thee; Choruses
Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers
Today’s Scriptures: Genesis 3:1-7, Genesis 11:1-9, Mark 10:35-45, and Matthew 26:14-16
Let us pray…
In our lesson today, ’United in the Spirit While Completing the Assigned Task’, we look at the challenges a Christian believer faces, while following the path set by the Lord. Those challenges include avoiding any stumbling blocks that Satan places in the path that the Lord wishes us to follow.
The Christian Church is composed of a body of believers. But is that same church of believers that Satan desires to confuse and corrupt away from the presence of God. The Reformist, Martin Luther describes the devil’s handiwork as follows: “For, where God built a church there the devil would also build a chapel.”
Satan loves nothing better than running interference with Christians’ understanding of the Lord, as we see in the various Scripture verses listed in today’s BLCF Church Bulletin.
The first Scripture Verse, Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV), describes how Satan tempted both Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to eat fruit forbidden by God. The temptation challenged the Lord’s authority by lies that indicated that eating the forbidden fruit would not bring a death judgment upon them, instead, the fruit would open their eyes to understanding good from evil and elevate them to possessing knowledge like God:
3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
Footnotes: a. Genesis 3:1 In Hebrew you is plural in verses 1–5 b. Genesis 3:6 Or to give insight
We see that instead of being elevated, their sin caused them separation from God, along with guilt, shame, and eventually ejection from the garden.
The second of today’s featured Scripture verses, Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV), tells how following the Great Flood, humanity spoke the same single language and sought to build a great tower to heaven. The builders expected that the tower brings fame, and unity of purpose, and help them from being scattered over the face of the earth. This second sinful act of arrogance that was an overt challenge to the authority of their Maker resulted in God bringing confusion of different languages among the builders of the tower. And the disparate languages, by their very nature, caused the people to scatter over the face of the world.
The Tower of Babel
11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused[a] the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
Footnotes: a. Genesis 11:9 Babel sounds like the Hebrew for confused
While the Babel account does not indicate Satan’s direct involvement in influencing the people in their decision to build themselves a tower to heaven, we know that their sinful nature is a legacy of Adam and Eve’s original sin in the Garden. But the same sinful arrogance is exhibited by two of Christ’s disciples, described in Mark 10:35-45 (ESV):
The Request of James and John
35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[a] 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave[b] of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Footnotes: a. Mark 10:43 Greek diakonos b. Mark 10:44 Greek bondservant (doulos)
In this account, James and John asked to share in the glory of the Lord, by being given seats on either side of Christ. Jesus replied that their request indicated ignorance of what Jesus was expected to face, which is his suffering and death on the cross in order to fulfill God’s plan for reconciliation and forgiveness. In order to be glorified, Jesus needed to suffer the pain of judgment for the sins of all of humanity. As the Day of Pentecost had not arrived, the disciples did not have the benefit of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit to help them discern the foolishness of their request.
Our Scriptures describe an assortment of sinful actions that people committed in order to obtain a share of God’s knowledge, His Presence, and His authority. These actions can be described as peoples’ desire to put lightning in a bottle:
Lightning in a bottle
Capturing something powerful and elusive and then being able to hold it and show it to the world.
The only thing worse than defying the authority of the Lord is betrayal, Matthew 26:14-16 (ESV):
Judas to Betray Jesus
14 Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests 15 and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. 16 And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Judas’ betrayal happened after the spirit of the devil came upon the disciple. The expectation of the betrayal was not to bring the person to the same level as the Lord. By accepting blood money for the Lord, Judas decided to elevate himself above Christ. The price of this elevation was 30 pieces of silver.
Throughout history, a desire by believers and non-believers, alike, to understand the workings of the universe, as we see in this quote from Shakespeare’s Quick Quotes:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
– Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio
your philosophy ] i.e., philosophy (or learning) in general.
The emphasis here should be on “dreamt of”, as Hamlet is pointing out how little even the most educated people can explain.
But the great minds can only postulate theories based on their limited understanding of the nature of the world. And what is a theory?
theory – noun, plural theories. (dictionary.com)
1. a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena:
Einstein’s theory of relativity.
Synonyms: principle, law, doctrine.
2. a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact.
Synonyms: idea, notion hypothesis, postulate.
Antonyms: practice, verification, corroboration, substantiation
Albert Einstein, who was considered one of the world’s greatest minds, authored the theory of relativity, based upon astute observations of natural behavior. Einstein, who described himself as an agnostic with respect to the existence of God, advanced a theory to replace Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Nature. Newton is a firm believer in God.
While Relativity could account for the behavior of matter in most circumstances, there were some aspects of particles that fell outside the framework of this theory, which resulted in another theory, the Quantum Theory to be advanced. But Einstein believed that a Unified Theory could be created to bridge the two theories, Relativity and Quantum, and act as a single Theory of Everything:
Classical unified field theories – from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Since the 19th century, some physicists have attempted to develop a single theoretical framework that can account for the fundamental forces of nature – a unified field theory. Classical unified field theories are attempts to create a unified field theory based on classical physics. In particular, unification of gravitation and electromagnetism was actively pursued by several physicists and mathematicians in the years between World War I and World War II. This work spurred the purely mathematical development of differential geometry. Albert Einstein is the best known of the many physicists who attempted to develop a classical unified field theory.
Unified field theory Main article: Classical unified field theories
Following his research on general relativity, Einstein entered into a series of attempts to generalize his geometric theory of gravitation to include electromagnetism as another aspect of a single entity. In 1950, he described his “unified field theory” in a Scientific American article entitled “On the Generalized Theory of Gravitation”. Although he continued to be lauded for his work, Einstein became increasingly isolated in his research, and his efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. In his pursuit of a unification of the fundamental forces, Einstein ignored some mainstream developments in physics, most notably the strong and weak nuclear forces, which were not well understood until many years after his death. Mainstream physics, in turn, largely ignored Einstein’s approaches to unification. Einstein’s dream of unifying other laws of physics with gravity motivates modern quests for a theory of everything and in particular string theory, where geometrical fields emerge in a unified quantum-mechanical setting.
But does the Bible give any indication as to why scientists have failed to come up with a single theory that accounts for the behavior of all aspects of the behavior matter and energy, from the beginning of the universe until the present? The answer to this question could be found in verse 11 of Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 (ESV):
The God-Given Task
9 What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.
14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.[a]
Footnotes: a. Ecclesiastes 3:15 Hebrew what has been pursued
There are aspects of our nature that fall beyond the scope of the physical universe, such as mercy, love, grace, and kindness. All are given in reward to faith, us to be seated by Christ. God has granted humble believers a way, through Jesus, to be raised up to be with the Lord, without the help of forbidden fruit, elaborate towers, or a request that put the Lord to the test. Let us take joy in all He has given us.
1 John 1:1-4 (ESV) The Word of Life
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that your joy may be complete.
And the certainty of experiencing joy comes from Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:4-7 (ESV):
4 But[a] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
Footnotes: a. Ephesians 2:4 Or And
Let us pray…
Closing Hymn #177: Rejoice, the Lord is King
Benediction – (Philippians 4:7): And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.