This program aired on KIUN 1400 AM in Pecos, TX on May 29, 2017.
Every year our nation commemorates the sacrifices of those who have given their lives in the service of our country. We call this holiday Memorial Day. It is a time for remembering the men and women who gave what President Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address called, “the last full measure of devotion” on fields of battle in defense of our land. Like many of our nation’s important commemorations, Memorial Day has no significance for many beyond being a day off from work or school, or a time for family gatherings and recreation. Those who only see it in this fashion have forgotten both the intent of the day and the sacrifices which prompted its creation.
It is sad and discouraging that the meaning of Memorial Day has been lost on so many in the current generation of Americans. It is dangerous, also. The danger comes from the possibility of this commemoration becoming something far different from its original intent. When Americans forget why we have a day like Memorial Day, they also forget how we came to be who we are as a nation. When this happens, it is a simple thing for those with unscrupulous agendas to lead us far afield from what the founding fathers envisioned for this nation.
The danger of forgetting from whence we have come, and how we have come to where we are, is not solely an American problem. It goes back virtually to the beginning of time, and has been played out in the history of God’s people over the course of multiplied generations. This human tendency prompted our Father in heaven to make stipulations in the Law of Moses so that His people would not forget what He had done for them. Moses wrote of this in Deut. 4:9, challenging the Israelites to “keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen. . .” God knew that if they ever forgot what He had done for them, they would quickly depart from His ways.
The period of the Judges is an excellent example of this truth. Over the course of more than 300 years the people of Israel turned away from God multiple times and were oppressed by their enemies as punishment. Jdg. 3:7 says that they “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God. . .” Each time they forgot God they turned away from Him and consequently suffered the consequences for doing so. The testimony of scripture is that forgetting God and His word always results in sin.
This message still applies today. God still requires us to remember what He has done for us, so we will obey Him and receive His blessings. The greatest gift of God is the sacrifice of His Son on the cross as the atonement for our sins. We are called upon to remember this sacrifice each Lord’s Day as we break the bread and drink the cup of communion (Mt. 26:26-29). When Paul corrected the Corinthian Christians for the way they had abused this memorial, he reminded them that on the night He initiated it Jesus said, “do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:24). If we forget that the purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to “proclaim His death until He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26), we will open ourselves up to being led into sin by turning this commemoration into something far different than the Lord intended.
In the same way, we must not forget what the Lord’s apostles taught and recorded for us in the pages of the New Testament. It is this book that will judge us at the last day (Jn. 12:48; Rev. 20:11-15), and we must always be diligent to remind ourselves of these things, and to practice them, lest we forget them and stray into sin. God has given us sufficient means to remember what He has done for us through His Son. He has given us sufficient means, through His word, for us to know how to please Him. Let us never forget.
Some years ago a cartoon appeared in a journal for preachers. It showed an angel speaking to a preacher who was standing outside his study. The angel was pointing into the study, where a Bible could be seen lying on the desk. The caption read, “Your sermons are inside. Some assembly required.” The point of the cartoon is obvious. If a preacher intends to deliver a sermon on Sunday he will have to work on it, assemble it, as it were, during the week.
Any preacher worth his salt knows that this is true. Sermons do not come together miraculously, without any study and effort on his part. Unless a preacher spends his time in diligent study of God’s word, he cannot proclaim it as it must be proclaimed. Unless he spends time honing his skills, both in the knowledge of God’s word and in putting his sermons together so they are understandable to his audience, his preaching will be worse than useless. It may even lead some astray.
“Some assembly required” does not apply solely to preachers, though. It is, in fact, a requirement in every Christian’s life. This truth is suggested by Peter’s command in 1 Pet. 2:1-3, where he said, “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”
When we obey the gospel our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16), and we rise from baptism to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). Jesus called this the new birth (Jn. 3:3, 5), and thus, as Peter said, we are “like newborn babies”. This means that we are beginning the process of “assembling” a life in Christ that will honor the Lord and fulfill His will for us. In the same way that raising a physical baby to maturity is hard work, so also is the spiritual process of growing from infancy to maturity in Christ.
Many of us have known older men and women whose godly lives and encyclopedic knowledge of God’s word was awe inspiring. We may have wished to ourselves that we knew the scriptures as they do. We may have wished that one day our lives would model Christ as theirs do. What we often overlook in such wishes is what it took for these godly men and women to reach such a mature state.
These men and women were not born this way. Neither did they wake up one day, mature in years and gifted with an uncommon knowledge of God’s word. The simple truth is that these men and women literally spent countless hours over many years in diligent study of God’s word, and in practicing the things they learned from it, in order to reach the level of maturity that we observe in them. Ultimately, this is the key to replicating their results.
In Heb. 5:11-14 the scripture speaks of some Christians who had become “dull of hearing”. They had not grown from infancy to maturity in Christ. The writer of Hebrews chastised them for still needing milk when they should have by that time graduated to solid food. He exhorted them to become mature by training their senses to discern good and evil. In other words, he told them to get to the business of assembling their spiritual houses in accordance with God’s word.
In 2 Tim. 2:15 Paul commands, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” The Lord expects us to be mature and to accurately handle His word. To accomplish this goal we must acknowledge that “some assembly is required.”
In 1 Kings 20 there is an interesting account of an incident during the reign of evil King Ahab of Israel. The Arameans had come up against Samaria, the capital city of Israel, and Ben-hadad, king of Aram, had laid claim to all of Ahab’s personal wealth, along with his most beautiful wives and children. Ahab initially agreed to this demand, but then Ben-hadad sent word that he wanted even more.
Ahab consulted with the elders of the land and they advised him to refuse to comply. When Ben-hadad received Ahab’s refusal, he said, “May the gods do so to me and more also, if the dust of Samaria will suffice for handfuls for all the people who follow me” (1 Kgs. 20:10). When Ahab learned of this threat, he replied, “Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off” (1 Kgs. 20:11). The point of Ahab’s reply was simple. Ben-hadad should not boast until he had won the battle.
Ahab’s reply seems like so much empty saber rattling since he had only the day before been extremely fearful of Ben-hadad and his army. However, as events unfolded God stood by Israel and Aram was soundly defeated. Ben-hadad’s boast proved to be unfounded, but only because God intervened to protect His people. As an added insult, God brought defeat on Aram at the hands of Israel a second time at the turn of the year (1 Kgs. 20:22-27).
This incident illustrates a timeless truth about boasting. For a boast to be legitimate, it must be based upon actual accomplishment. It is one thing to talk about the things one might do if given the opportunity, but until one has actually done those things, such talk is worthless. Indeed, this kind of talk is rude and insulting, especially to those who have in fact accomplished great things in their lives.
Too often young people make this mistake. They disregard and disrespect the accomplishments of their ancestors, while touting how much better their ideas and abilities are in comparison. This was one of the fallacies of the unrest of the 1960s generation who protested “the establishment”. They ignored the fact that “the establishment” had gone to war in the 1940s and had defeated Fascism in order to create the society in which these young people were free to protest the things they didn’t like. Sadly, the generation that grew up in rebellion have not done nearly as much to make the world a better place as the generation against whom they protested.
The same is true in many respects in the church. Many today deride and discount the efforts of Christians in the early to mid-20th century. They point with disdain to the supposed flaws of those earlier generations and proudly proclaim how much better the church would be under their direction and influence. The plain truth, however, is that were it not for the tireless and successful work of those previous generations, the church would not be as widespread across the world as it is today. Just like the 1960s protesters, the current generation of detractors has done little in comparison to their predecessors.
The scriptures generally decry the idea of boasting. It is easy to see why this is the case. Too often boasting is all about personal aggrandizement. Such is not becoming for those who belong to the Lord, especially in comparison to the giants of the faith to whom we are indebted. One of the greatest apostles, whose achievements are far beyond anything any of us have done, said that we should only boast in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31). In Gal. 6:14 he said, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
We have done nothing worthy of boasting. Therefore, if we must boast let us boast only in the Lord, who has in fact removed His armor, having defeated once for all time, the enemy of mankind. To God be the glory!
The largest single body of the Lord’s teachings are found in what we call the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew records this message in Mt. 5-7. Among the many topics that the Lord discussed in this great discourse was His exhortation to not be worried about the mundane affairs of life (Mt. 6:24-34). Then, as now, many people were consumed with worry about how they would live from day to day. This worry not only robbed them of the joy of living, but was also a sign that their priorities were not right.
In v. 24 the Lord said, “No one can serve two maters; for either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” He followed this statement in v. 25 with the exhortation to not be worried about the essentials of life. This suggests that the two are related. That is, if our master is wealth we will likely be consumed with anxiety over whether we have enough to take care of our needs. This anxiety is due in large part to the fact that we are not truly servants of God. It suggests that we don’t trust Him to provide for our daily needs.
The Lord illustrated the folly of such anxiety with the admonition to “Consider the lilies” (Mt. 6:28 — KJV). He pointed out that these flowers of the field do not toil, and they do not spin. Even so, the Lord said that even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of them. The imagery here is powerful. Solomon was one of the wealthiest men to have ever lived, and the splendor associated with his reign is legendary. Yet, in the Lord’s view the simple lilies of the field were more glorious and beautiful than he.
Most of us would agree that the beauties of nature far surpass any man-made beauty, no matter how ornate it may be. The truth of this is seen in the fact that one rarely sees, much less buys, a calendar with photos of the lavish accoutrements of the rich. Instead, we are more likely to see a calendar with photos of fields of wild flowers, or forest scenes, or snow-capped mountains. This is because there is simply no beauty as wondrous as that which God created.
The Lord’s exhortation to consider the lilies was more than a call to enjoy the beauty of nature, however. It was to show the people just how much God cares for them. In v. 30 the Lord said, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” Here’s the point: the flowers of the field are unimportant in God’s eternal purpose, yet He cares for them in spectacular fashion. If He would do so for these expendable things, how much more so will He care for mankind, whose souls will live for eternity?
In v. 33 the Lord gave His divine prescription for the kind of anxiety that grips most of us. He said, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” If we have our priorities properly set, we will trust in the God who provides for the lilies of the field. We will do so because we know He considers our souls to be much more important than flowers or any other aspect of nature. As a result, we will not be obsessed with concern for our daily well-being.
It is easy to become caught up in the hamster-in-the-wheel grind of daily life. If God is not our master, we can expect to worry. However, if we consider the lilies we will remind ourselves that our Father in heaven has promised His providential care for all who belong to Him. And with that knowledge, we will have peace.