Please join us on Friday, October 14 from 5:30 – 8:30 pm for a game night. Bring finger foods and any games you enjoy playing.
Elephants & sheep
The internet encyclopedias list some of the similarities and many differences between elephants and sheep. Both have strong social instincts and good memories. Elephants have brains that weigh up to 11 pounds, and can identify themselves in a mirror. They have a wide range of sounds to announce their needs and co-ordinate movements and defense. They usually live in groups of 8 to 10 individuals but are much more independent than sheep. They also seem to display emotions at the birth and death of those in their herd. They will care not only for their own babies, but rally around those whose mother is hurt or dies. Sheep also have a flock mentality and desire to be close to others in the group. They are generally docile by nature but fear new visual objects and will run out of control when startled by noise or yelling. They have good peripheral vision but poor depth perception. Although they have a good sense of hearing, they can wander off and get lost. Elephants are often carefree and enjoying playing but sometimes praise or scold their offspring.
All that being said, isn’t it somewhat surprising that the Holy Spirit used the analogy of sheep instead of elephants to describe the church (flock) of the Lord Jesus Christ (Jo 10k:11 & 27)? Aside from the humor of replacing a lost baby elephant on Jesus’ shoulders, (Jo 15:4-5) there are several good reasons to compare sheep to Christians. People tend to go astray (1 Pe 2:25) (Isa 53:6) and frequently in the opposite direction as the shepherds (Ps 119:176) (Jer 50:6). Whereas sheep are by nature followers and docile, they cannot be driven like cattle. Christians could learn much from sheep about staying in the safety of the flock and not drifting to the fringe where the wolves can more easily pick them off (Acts 20:28-29).
Just as sheep can produce valuable wool, the Christian is expected to produce good works for the Chief Shepherd (Eph 2:10) (Jo 9:4) (Php 2:12). Sheep seldom fight with each other and Christians are told to, “…Live in peace with each other.” (1 Th 5:13) (Heb 12:14) Sheep need to be continually fed, as do Christians (Jo 21:15-17) (2 Ti 2:2) (Tit 2:1). As we look at the wise instincts and behaviors of the elephants, we might be tempted to think we are more like them, but with an honest introspection, we know we are more like sheep.
Even though many of us have sung the song MAJESTY several times, we probably haven’t explored the depth of its meaning enough. Some of the dictionary definitions call it, regal, lofty, imposing character, supreme greatness and authority, impressive and revered. It is often linked in scripture with splendor (1 Chr 16:26-27) (Ps 45:3) (Ps 145:5) (Isa 2:10). This adds a dimension of, “brilliant and gorgeous appearance, grandeur, brilliant light and magnificence.” The song says, “Kingdom authority flow from His throne unto His own; worship His majesty…”
There are a huge amount of verses in both the Old and New Testaments which proclaim God’s glory, sovereignty and majesty. Some talk about how He is clothed in majesty (Ps 93:1) (Ps 104:1). Others tell us that, “He comes in awesome majesty and is beyond our reach and exalted in power…” (Job 37:22-23).
The relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the sharing of their majesty can be seen clearly in the event of the transfiguration (Mt 17:2) (Mk 9:2). Peter writes later of the majestic splendor saying, “…we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” (2 Pe 1:16) He, James and John saw Christ’s face and clothes shine like the sun—white as light. The Father’s majesty came down to earth from the Majestic Glory as He declared, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” (2 Pe 1:17)
The Father often showed His majesty through the teaching and miracles of Jesus (Jude 25) (Heb 1:1-3) (Heb 8:1). He showed it also through the thoughts and words given to us through the Holy Spirits’ inspired scriptures (1 Cor 2:9-13). Amazingly, our God who is so great and powerful had His beloved Son humbly washing dirty feet and allowing Him to be brutally killed on a Roman cross.
God will punish those who do not repent and obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus with everlasting destruction. They will be shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power (2 Th 1:7-9). However, faithful, obedient Christians will finally know the full extent of God’s majesty when they see His face in heaven. (Rev 22:3-4) He will be with them forever and free them from death, pain and tears (Rev 21:3-4).
There are certain things such as stains, nuclear fallout, DNA, angry words, memories, cancer, and sins which are virtually impossible to totally cleanse. Killers have tried to clean up spilled blood with ammonia, but the CSI crew can nearly always find traces of it. The nuclear plant accident at Chernobyl is still polluting the environment after many years. It seems in spite of chemo and radiation some cancers appear to lurk in one’s body only to surface again years later. So it is also with angry words, memories and especially sins.
The New Testament lists many of these sins in various books (Gal 5:19-20) (Rom 1:29-30) (Tit 1:10-16). The verses in Romans show how inhumane mankind has become since God created man in His own image (Gen 1:26). Not content to be heartless, brutal and immoral, they invented ways of doing evil (Rom 1:30). When the Apostle Paul explains the dilemma of wanting to do good but doing evil instead, he laments, “…Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24). Various secular sources claim that this was an analogy taken from the actual type of punishment given some criminals. They would be tied face to face to a dead body and slowly die a horrible, painful death. Even though proof of this is hard to verify, it would not be too surprising given the fact that the Romans introduced the world to crucifixion.
Mankind can sometimes mask sins, but they are deeply embedded and cannot be cleaned up by one’s own determination and effort. The only possible cleansing agent is the blood of Christ Jesus, which, when applied to sinners, totally cleanses them (Rom 6:3-6) (Acts 2:38). They are no longer under condemnation (Rom 8:1) but rather can leave the unspiritual nature (Rom 7:14-23) behind and become a new creation (self) (Rom 6:6-7). The guilt of the old sins can be covered by the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control now replace slavery to sin. We cannot clean up our sins, but Christ can and does (Isa 1:18) (Rev 7:13).
The word duty has almost become a 4 letter word in our society today. There are, no doubt, several reasons for this. It could be because the words respect and authority are also on the downturn. Perhaps it is due to the idea that obligation and burden are close synonyms of duty. One of the definitions of duty is a task that is expected, required or assigned. This doesn’t seem to sit well with many adults if they never learned to respect and obey their parents, elders and superiors. That is partly because many parents in our culture did not require, early and often, these qualities.
Anyone who has children can empathize with those who have the responsibility and burden of instilling this understanding of obligation, respect and duty in their children. Surely we should cut people some slack when they have strong-willed kids. This must have been especially tricky for Adam and Eve with Cain since they were the pioneers of parenthood.
God certainly gave His people both Israelites and Christians duties and burdens. Solomon summarized it all by saying, “…Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecc 12:13)
At his trial before the Sanhedrin, Paul said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” (Acts 23:1) This promptly earned him a slap on the mouth (V 2) which shows that duty to God doesn’t always carry weight with hypocrites. Nevertheless, later Paul wrote Timothy to, “… discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Tim 4:5). In the letter to the Galatians he urged them to, “…carry each other’s burdens…” (Gal 6:2).
Jesus knew that some burdens (duties) are almost too heavy to carry, like the ones the experts of the law loaded down on the people (Lk 11:46). He also taught that Christians are to, “…deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23). This would seem too difficult unless He also promised, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:30) Unfortunately, some Christians confuse hiatus with retirement and lay their burdens down soon after baptism. Jesus and the Apostles stressed the importance of the work we are to carry out. (Jo 9:4) (Eph 2:10) (Eph 4:12) (Col 3:23) (1 Th 5:12)