Monday, March 17, 2014

Coal or Diamond - Part 18

image used under Creative Commons license, courtesy of
We've talked a lot about diamonds in the this series, but much less so about coal. On a chilly night or morning, I'd guarantee that most people would be happier seeing the light of burning coal embers than the reflected and refracted light coming through a diamond, without a warm fire going.

We said it earlier in this series, but it bears repeating.  The diamond is beautiful, but that's its sole source of value.  And it'll never become a piece of coal.  The piece of coal isn't much to look at, but it's value is in its usefulness, not its appearance. But, under the right conditions, coal can still become a diamond, reflecting the light around it.  That highlights some very important truths about our walk with God.

Matthew 6:19 (KJV)  Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

Pastor John Hadley preached the main message in our early service, yesterday.  And that was a key verse.  But it got me thinking about some of the things we've recently shared.  And, perhaps, a different angle on this verse.  Because there really is more than meets the eye.  And I'll admit that I may be stretching things a bit, but I think I'm still communicating the heart of God.  So, let's refresh a little, before moving on.

Last time, we talked a little about recovering from alcoholism.  I had also delved a little into other substances, but alcohol had been my "drug of choice".  I mentioned, fairly early in this biographical series, that I started smoking cigarettes (and pipes and cigars) when I was 13.  That finally ended when I was 60.  Almost 25 years of that was as a born again believer.  Because, I went along with the counsel I got from many, I "knew" that God would miraculously heal me, leading me to ignore options like the patch for a very long time.  Because I thought my faith was in question by seeking other means.  I finally did use the patch and I'll discuss why I think God wanted it that way, at another time.  But I'll just say, here, that there are two things we need to remember, as we continue with today's post.  That reliance on one view of how God would work was exactly what I said was wrong, last time.  It restricted God to the box of my own understanding.  And that gave me plenty of opportunity to mentally beat myself up for failing God.  Which brings us back to the starting verse.

Pretty much every time I hear someone speak about laying up treasures, it's in reference to goods, greed, not trusting Gods provision.  And those refer to placing something ahead of God. The most frequent mental image is the parable of the rich farmer whose priority was filling his barns, when he was told that he would be leaving his earthly life that very night.  Earthly physical goods versus spiritual treasure.  As if we could take a balance scale and place some of one on one side, the other into the opposite side, and measure the difference.  In reality, there's so much more to this verse.

The original Scripture word for treasures speaks of wealth, but also the storehouses or barns where that wealth is kept.  That word is thesauros.  Does that sound familiar?  It's the exact same word that we translate as "thesaurus", the volume or volumes where we can look up a word and find all the words that have a similar meaning or all the antonyms that mean the opposite.  It's in our ability to put words together to think, and then communicate those thoughts, that we discover our greatest riches.  And even more so, when we can latch onto and share God's thoughts.

Our verse says there's something more lasting than earthly treasure.  Read on.

Matthew 13:45-46 (KJV)  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Romans 14:17-19 (KJV)  For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.  For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men.  Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. 

Do those passages get you thinking along the same lines that I am?  Christ's kingdom is experienced by His presence.  It's His righteousness, His peace, and His joy that we experience.

When Matthew 6:19 talks about corruption and thievery, look at what the Bible says about that.

John 10:10 (KJV)  The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

1 Peter 5:8 (KJV)  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Satan doesn't like God or God's people.  What he can't destroy, he'll attempt to steal.  If we're so focused on earthly concerns that we don't comprehend what's really ours, he's in effect stolen our real treasure.  And he's even a copycat in how he does that.  But the devil can't steal our salvation, only some of our joy.  There's something far more important to notice than what old slewfoot will try.

Go back to the end of Romans 14:19 and notice what it says, "Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.".  What creates peace and what edifies?  Words.  Our thoughts of peace, joy, love all start with words.  Satan's attacks are all with words.  There may be external circumstances, but it's the thoughts about them, created by words, that make the real difference.

Let's think about a verbal attack.  Suppose you have a sore somewhere on your body, maybe a leg. You know it needs to be dealt with, but it doesn't seem too important.  Call it a lesion and the medical nature of the term makes it seem much more serious.  Describe it as "possibly cancerous" and we're ready for a long stay in the hospital and painful treatment.  And all of that is talking about the very same sore, possibly nothing more than a broken pimple.  How we think and talk about it changes our response, even though the sore itself hasn't changed.  The major front in the attack isn't the sore, it's the words we surround it with.

The same goes for edifying.  Something like "Happy birthday." is pretty simple.  But change that to "Hope it's a great birthday." and we've communicated something much stronger.  But we're still basically sending a birthday greeting.  It says, in Romans 9:25 (NKJV), As He says also in Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.".  Words are important.

When we think about the power of words, is it any wonder that they're important enough to God to call His Son the Living Word?  Words can cause great pain, but they also can build up beyond anything we could ask or think.  A thesaurus is a storehouse of great wealth of words.  But the thēsaurós of our life, our treasure storehouse, is the Word of God.  Share the wrong words, in the wrong way, from the wrong source, and we cause pain.  Care in selecting the right words, properly communicated, from the right source, and we bring joy.  How are we doing with our words, today?  Are we creating pressure to crush coal or build diamonds?

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