Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Have Yourself a Babylonian Christmas?

Is 21:9 And behold, here come riders, horsemen in pairs!” And he answered, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the carved images of her god she has shattered to the ground.”
The Bible uses many famous cities both literally and figuratively. There were real cities: Sodom, Gomorrah, Jerusalem, and Babylon…. but the Bible also uses these cities figuratively. It does the same with famous mountains and places.
The fall of Babylon is a key motif in Scripture and it has profound implications…. especially to Western Christians as we live and work in some of the most prosperous times in world history!
So we must pay attention to the LITERAL demise of ancient Babylon and understand the applications of the FIGURATIVE Babylon.
The prophetic details regarding the fall of ancient Babylon, as minutely recorded in the Old Testament narratives, truly are astounding. This is but another example of the amazing evidence that demonstrates the character of the Bible as the inspired Word of God. The accuracy of the dozens of prophecies regarding the fall of Babylon has baffled skeptics for generations. So remarkable has been the precision of the fulfillment that critics often have resorted to redating the predictions in both Isaiah and Jeremiah so as to make them appear to be records of history instead of prophecy!
                                            WAYNE JACKSON-Babylon, A Test Case in Prophecy
Our modern cities with their wealth, false religions, and sexual exploitation are modern forms of Babylon. The media and their advertisements can bring into our homes and thoughts the seducing message of worshiping money, sex, power, and pleasure. Advertisements tell us that satisfaction and meaningful living can be found if only we buy the latest product.
                                                                                Vern Poythress
What’s so bad about Babylon?
A Faulty System: “The system whereby man and women, beginning absolutely by themselves, try rationally to build out from themselves, having only Man as their integration point, to find all knowledge, meaning and value”  Francis Schaeffer
  • A System that Love things and Uses People-
  • A System Run by Selfish People
  • A System Run by Wicked People- Ch 17- Mother of the Earth’s Abominations
Where we have to be careful, is that though the destruction is predicted, it comes upon the people without warning. And because it happens in God’s timing, a lot of people stop believing that it will happen.
Sadly, when it happens…. it comes ‘crashing’ down … it was predicted…. it was ignored.. but it does happen and catches MANY people unaware and unprepared.
Have you ever seen the sudden destruction of those who stand against God? I have. You pray for them and it looks like nothing is even close to happening… and the fall is shocking!
Babylon is going to be taken down…. so the key is for us to destroy  Babylon now. In other words, what allegiances do we have to this city that is defiant to God and God’s people?
And this is a wise choice….. It is going away anyway!
Think of it as a twist on the famous  Jim Elliott quote:
“He is no fool to put away what will be destroyed, to pursue what will last.”
One leading pastor in helping us understand this journey is Tim Keller. Tim Keller has ministered and served in New York for over 25 years. He meets people who are trapped in the Manhattan lifestyle.
Consider how he begins this important process……
“I ordinarily begin speaking about sin to a young, urban, non-Christian like this:
Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry.”   Tim Keller   
By the way... you can live in Babylon without having a Babylonian Christmas......
Hebrews 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.   
“ Worldliness is what any culture does to make sin seem normal and righteousness seem strange.” G.K. Beall
The glamour of this world system is a lot of promise but little fulfillment. Contrast this to Christ. As others flee in distress, Christ endured the cross. The world woos and Satan strikes. We spit on Christ and He forgives. We give hours to the world and minutes to Christ. We give thousands to the spirit of the age and pennies to God’s kingdom. Yet, over and over, the cross is proof of God’s love. Time is proof of God’s patience. But the Scripture is clear, the day of grace will close and destruction will come suddenly. Those who have served Babylon, loved Babylon, treated God and His people with contempt…. will meet the wrath of a Father whose son has been mistreated, ignored, and murdered. In the end it will come down to two kingdoms. Some who said to God, “Thy will be done” and others to whom God says to them, “thy will be done.”
Are you weary of this culture? Are you tired of Babylon?
Our post-modern carnage has left us:
  • fractured: from no consensus-
  • shallow: from endless sound bites and sloganeering (please- no more snappy mission statements)-
  • disillusioned: from no appeal to truth, and
  • fatigued: from microwave, fast paced activities, but no form to support the pressure.
As we list modern day idols, simple state what are the ‘good things’ that we have made into ‘god things”?
  • Active Allegiance to the King of Kings
It is important to publicly stand with Christ. Let your allegiance be known! I was convicted years ago by a famous question: If you were put on trial for the crime of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict?
  • Gospel Message and Spirit Power- Preach the gospel to yourself everyday
Our only hope in escaping Babylon is to be set free by the true gospel. “The gospel is too good and life is too short for us to spend our lives as posers” David Filson
  • Practicing The Disciplines of Grace (Prayer/Scripture/Fasting/Worship/ Sacraments)
I call on all of us to reclaim the lost art of discipleship. We need to meet in small groups and encourage one another to practice our faith. We are not saved by our rituals and routines, but we live lives of obedience BECAUSE of God’s free gift and grace!
  • Silence and Solitude- Evaluation
Because this is so important..take time to truly ask God to show you where you are. Ask hard questions… read the beautiful verses that lay out the doctrine of grace!
  • Fellowship and Accountability
This is similar to point #3… but Christianity is NOT a lone ranger lifestyle.
  • Patience and Perseverance
Don’t give up. God has a pace. He is never late, but He is seldom early! Patience helps us grow. This race is a marathon…not a sprint!
Try These Things:
Do an Idol Inventory- Ask God to reveal and then help with the fight
Do a Relationship Inventory- Strengthen the Bonds!
Giving to God’s kingdom in Proportion to Supporting World’s System
Discipline and Restraint in Regards to Appetites
TV/ Movies/ Music/ Entertainment- Ask for Discernment
Christian Liberty- Ask for Discernment “All things lawful- but not all profitable”
Loving Confrontation – “Hard on Yourself and Tender Toward Others”
II CORINTHIANS 10:4-6 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
The following is an idol inventory that I adapted (stole) from Tim Keller… I find it VERY useful!
IDOL INVENTORY- Adapted From Tim Keller
Power idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I have power and influence over others.
Approval idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am loved and respected by _________.
Comfort idolatry:“Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I have this kind of pleasure experience, a particular quality of life.”
Image idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I have a particular kind of look or body image.
Control idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of _____________.
Helping idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ people are dependent on me and need me.”
Dependence idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ someone is there to protect me and keep me safe.”
Independence idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am completely free from obligations or responsibilities to take care of someone.”
Work idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am highly productive getting a lot done.”
Achievement idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am being recognized for my accomplishments, if I am excelling in my career.”
Materialism idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I have a certain level of wealth, financial freedom, and very nice possessions.
Religion idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am adhering to my religion’s moral codes and accomplished in it activities.”
Individual person idolatry: “Life only has meaning/ 1 only have worth if ‑‑ this one person is in my life and happy there and/or happy with me.”
Irreligious idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I feel I am totally independent of organized religion and with a self‑made morality.
Racial/cultural idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ my race and culture is ascendant and recognized as superior.”
Inner ring idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ a particular social grouping or professional grouping or other group lets me in”
Family idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ my children and/OR my parents are happy with me.”
Suffering idolatry: “Life only has meaning /I only have worth if ‑‑ I am hurting, in a problem ‑­only then do I feel noble or worthy of love or am able to deal with guilt.”
Understanding idolatry:  “Life only has meaning / I only have worth if – I understand why I am the way I am and understand my idols!”
Safety idolatry: “Life only has meaning / I only have worth if – I am pursuing the safest course of action and not taking risks emotionally or physically”
Authenticity idolatry: “Life only has meaning / I only have worth if – I am not pretending and being honest [shameless] about who I really am”
This Christmas... let the Lord do some heart surgery. Find your worth in Him and enjoy your time with family and friends. Don't live like you need to rise is status in a system that is corrupt. This doesn't mean you have to flee the world... you can live in it and discover the riches that really matter! 
If Christmas lets you down...could it be that you have idolized even what the holidays are supposed to do for you?
"God rest you Merry Gentlemen".............

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