Sunday, October 23, 2016

Is it I? -- part 2

The Word for today:
2 Chronicles 9, 10
Note: The first two chapters of the Bible--Genesis 1 and 2--show a world which evil has not yet entered. The last two chapters of the Bible--Revelation 21 and 22--show a world from which evil has been eradicated. Between them, the trail of pervasive evil can be followed all the way from Genesis 3 through Revelation 20.
Yesterday we followed that trail through the chambers of Solomon's Temple. Today we will continue on that dark pathway as it winds its way through the Upper Room, through the early church, and into the church today. Finally, we will enter the chambers of our own hearts to examine what is there.
The temple was dedicated with a majestic ceremony. Immediately, God pronounced it good:
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. (2 Chronicles 7:1)
And for a time Solomon walked in fellowship with God. You can read all about it in his masterpiece, the luminescent Song of Solomon.
But the day was coming when Solomon would cease to walk in wholehearted fellowship with God. You will sense the developing distance between them when you read Solomon's despairing book of Ecclesiastes.
The day was coming when Solomon, who led the dedication ceremony, would lead a parade of idols into the temple precincts.
We've seen this pattern before. God made Eden and immediately pronounced it good. There, for a while, man walked in fellowship with his maker.
But then a rustling and a hissing is heard:
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 really say…?" (Genesis 3:1)
That seed of doubt set a distance between the man and the LORD God. Then doubt's distance grew to become sin's separation...
When the church was brand new, God saw that it was good, and tongues of fire fell from heaven (Acts 2). But--just as Jesus had warned--it wouldn't take long before something sinister would find its way into the batch:
"The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened." (Matthew 13:33)
There is only one valid response to the warning in Matthew 13:33. We're to respond just as the disciples did, on that holiest night of the year, when Jesus informed them that evil had made its way into the Upper Room:
And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me."
They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, "Is it I?"
 (Mark 14:17-19)
Evil found its way into Eden; and into Solomon's heart; and into the Temple. In the New Testament, it found its way into the Upper Room and into the church.
Neither Solomon nor Judas, it seems to me, set out to sow the seed of evil. Evil's tactics are more insidious than we know, developing so gradually that apostasy is well established before becoming apparent.
It takes just a little leaven--an inch of compromise here, a millimeter of accommodation there--and before we know it, we can find ourselves denying the savior who bought us:
For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 1:4)
So scripture urges us to assess our faith:
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5)
Examine your faith. Is it true? Is it undivided? Is it whole-hearted? Is it in accordance with scripture? (1) Or are you compromising the truth away, letting the world around you squeeze you into its own mold (2).
Just as the Twelve had responded in the Upper Room, we should, periodically, say to him one after another,
"Is it I?"

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