On Sunday we had the privilege of baptizing the small baby of Christian parents at our church service. I suppose many Baptists (who hold to only believers’ baptism) would cry “heresy!” or mumble a something about the influence of Roman Catholicism under their breath. Why did we baptise that young child?
Baptism is the sign of the new covenant in Jesus, just as circumcision was the sign of the old covenant with Abraham (Romans 4:11). All New Testament doctrine and practise have their beginnings in the Old Testament; baptism is no different.
Over the last few weeks Sphelo (our church’s ministry apprentice) and myself have been targeted (yes, I think we have been targeted) by a group of enthusiastic and persistent Jehovah’s Witnesses. They probably believe that converting a pastor will earn them extra brownie points.
Last week the pastor of Christ’s Community Church in California was arrested by the Sheriff’s Department and charged with seven counts of committing lewd acts upon a child. He allegedly was carrying on a two year sexual relationship with a teen congregant. The pastor in question is 50 years old and married. Shocking news of another so-called man of God falling into gross sin and bringing Jesus name into disrepute. But the news is not too shocking as we quite often hear of men and women falling into massive sin.
Solomon was a great man of God. But, in spite of all his wisdom he too ended up falling into sin and turning his heart away from God. Solomon has some important lessons to teach us.
The three commandments
According to the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 17) there were three basic instructions for any king of Israel:
* The king was not to buy many horses. Horses and chariots where the forefront of modern weapons technology. The king would be tempted to rely on horses rather than God. He would start thinking he is great and not God.
* The king should not have many wives (as was the practice of the pagan kings of the time). God’s guideline from Genesis 2 of one man married to one woman has never changed. God also instructed his people not to marry unbelievers as it would turn his people’s hearts to other gods.
* The king should not acquire much silver and gold. Excessive money would make him arrogant, self-sufficient and proud.
Today we all, especially men, struggle with the same three temptations: Glory, Girls and Gold. We are tempted by fame, power and reputation, even if it means lying, cheating, and exploiting. We are tempted to be unfaithful to our wives, to view pornography, or to have an inappropriate relationship with a member of the opposite sex. We are tempted by money and we are quite aware of what people will do to get their hands on more cash.
Slowly, slowly, catch a monkey
Solomon’s fall did not happen overnight but was the end result of years and years of accumulated small compromises. It didn’t happen overnight – it took years. Solomon’s heart turned from God as the result of accumulated compromises and a conscience de-sensitized by repeated sin. I value warning systems. The low-oil light on your car’s dashboard, smoke detectors in your office, even the little bumps in the road that let you know when you’re crossing over the yellow line. If there’s any device that’s able to warn me of danger or impending catastrophe, I want it working for me. Your conscience is your early warning system. But your conscience alone can’t save you. It’s only a mechanism—a warning device.
Although Solomon was known as the wisest person on earth, in one area he was very unwise – the area of women. The author of Kings mentions this worrying trend early in Solomon’s career. 1 Kings 3:1 says, “Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter”.
God does not have a problem with a believer marrying a person from another culture, ethnic group or language, as long as they are believers. (Even Moses married a black African woman according to Numbers 12:1) God knows that having such a close relationship with an unbeliever would have negative spiritual consequences for his people. And, of course, if you shouldn’t marry unbelievers, you shouldn’t date unbelievers either. At the start of his reign Solomon messes up.
Gold and glory
But women are not Solomon’s only downfall. We read in 1 Kings 10 that Solomon had accumulated great wealth (which was a gift from God). Instead of using the money for the good of the kingdom, he spent the money largely on himself. In 1 Kings 10:26 we read another one of Solomon’s small compromises. It says, “Solomon accumulated chariots and horses; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horses, which he kept in the chariot cities and also with him in Jerusalem”. He blatantly disobeyed God’s word.
1 Kings 11:1 does not come as too much of a surprise to us, “King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter–Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites.”
Verse 3-4 says blatantly, “They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods…his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been.”
How did mighty Solomon fall? It’s true that Solomon had a bad example of polygamy from his father David. I’m sure that he justified the taking of many wives and live-in girlfriends (concubines) from the life of his father. Although David never married a pagan wife or took a non-Israelite wife or concubine. Perhaps Solomon thought he could convert the women he loved. But he couldn’t. God had warned that it would turn out the other way around — the women would turn him to their gods. This was Solomon’s pride. He thought he could be different. He thought he could resist any such temptation. And he ended up getting burnt. That same issue hounds men today. Men can handle everything from finances to million-dollar-deals to complex contracts, but not their sex drives. Do you think you’re special? You’re immune to temptation? You can play with fire without getting burnt?
Ask yourself, Am I compromising in small areas? Am I doing things my conscience says I shouldn’t? Undoubtedly it will lead to bigger sin. It may be in the area of pornography. Perhaps you view just a little pornography? Perhaps nothing too hard-core? Perhaps you think you deserve the porno thrill after a long week at work? It may on the other hand be an inappropriate relationship? You say, “Its just a coffee and chat, you won’t let things get out of hand.”
Notice too when Solomon’s downfall came, verse 4 says “As Solomon grew old”. We may think godliness becomes easier the older we get. Yet the Christian life is often compared to a marathon in the Bible, which gets harder the further you run!
1 Kings 11:3 gives us the final outcome, “Solomon held fast to them(his foreign wives) in love.” Solomon’s disobedience led to idolatry. Instead of holding fast to God, he clung to his wives. His heart ended up far from God. He ended up putting something which is not God before God. He started disobeying God with small compromises and ended up living for some idol that could not save or satisfy.
God is angry
Probably the scariest verse in this whole account in verse 9, “The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.” The God of Israel and the universe is angry. Solomon did not only have God’s word written down in the scroll of Deuteronomy, but God himself had appeared twice to Solomon. Solomon had no excuse. Solomon learnt that nobody gets away with anything. God knows. God sees. God is displeased. Because of the sin of Solomon the Kingdom would be torn in two at Solomon’s death. Solomon learnt that sin has consequences. God deals seriously with sin and idolatry because he knows it is absolutely destructive. Of course God will forgive and cleanse, but often we still have to bear the natural, earthly consequences of our sin.
Guard your heart
How do we guard our hearts to make sure that we don’t turn away from God? Here are 5 ways (thanks to The Gospel Coalition for the insights).
1. Don’t say it can’t happen to you.
Pride always come before a fall. Never forget that Satan wants to destroy you and your family
2. Put up boundaries and keep them there.
Here are some stats:
* Half of marriages end in divorce
* Over half of all men face real and ongoing struggles with cyber porn.
* 56% of divorce cases involve one party having an obsessive interest in online porn
* 93% of boys are exposed to internet porn before the age of 18.
* The average age of first Internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old
These scary stats confirm that will live in a highly sexualized culture. A culture that makes much, in a wrong way, of girls, gold and glory.
We know we should have active porn filters on our computers, but do we? We know we should not have any inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex, but do we keep careful watch? How do you know if a relationship is inappropriate? Well, ask yourself:
* Do I look forwards to those appointments?
* Do I try to meet with that person away from the office?
* Do I prefer if my co-workers and wife didn’t know about the appointment?
I read of this Christian guy who struggles with porn when he travels. His company puts him up in hotels where there are porn channels on TV. So before he leaves home he phones the hotel and gets them to unplug the TV and take it out of his room. This guy is committed to sexual purity.
Put up boundaries!
3. Have a personal plan for spiritual growth
Have a plan that includes reading the Bible regularly, being part of a cell group, having a prayer partner, praying yourself and having an accountability partner that will hold you accountable for your personal godliness. Your accountability partner should ask questions like, Have you viewed any porno this week? Have you been with a woman in an inappropriate way this week?
4. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.
Be careful how you touch members of the opposite sex, be careful what you say to them and be careful what you wear around them. Don’t be perceived to be a pervert, a flirt, or easy. In churches some people like to hug as a form of a warm Christian greeting. I have nothing against hugging and have been known to hug in my time. But often times it seems like the older men feel especially called to hug the younger girls!
5. Never forget that we are in a spiritual battle with real winners and losers.
Though we may try to ignore it, we have three very real enemies – the world, the flesh, and the Devil – who are more than happy to play their part in helping us get burnt. The kingdom of darkness enjoys seeing Christian men going down in flames for moral failure because, like a grenade, its shrapnel does damage to many others.
A better king
Solomon was a fallen sinner. In fact, the book of Kings leaves us waiting for and expecting a better king. A king in the line of David who will not sin, who will always do what is right and will rule over his Kingdom forever. This king is Jesus. He was born in the line of David and came to conquer sin and death and establish his eternal kingdom. The scandal of the gospel is that King Jesus dies for the sins and wrongdoings of his subjects and then rises again to give them new life and a fresh start.
How are you doing in your walk with God? Remember it’s not how you start, but how you finish that counts – ask Solomon.
Desires often become demands, and when demands aren’t met we become angry. Men desire many things. You come home from a long day at the office and you desire peace and quiet, or you desire a warm meal, or even a cuddle with your beautiful wife before dinner. However, often when you get home there’s pandemonium! The baby is crying and smelly, the food is burning and your wife is at the end of her tether.
You have to make a decision. Will you, as a Christian man, die to yourself and graciously put your wife and children’s desires before your own or will you make your desires demands?
If you turn your desires into demands those very same desires become idols in your life, idols that in turn demand your allegiance and sacrifice. You demand peace and quiet. You demand to watch TV without interruption. You demand sex. Your desires are now idols. You are no longer obeying Jesus, but the idols of your own making.
When those demands are not met we then blame our wives and children for frustrating us and making our life unbearable. After blaming our loved ones we then punish them by withdrawing, giving them the silent treatment or even blasting them with unkind words. Satan smiles as a further wedge has been driven between you and your wife and you and your children.
On the other hand, you could die to self, put your wife’s desires before your own (Philippians 2:3-4) and rather than having a moment of anger, you can be more like Jesus and have a moment of grace. You can help change the baby’s nappy, you can order out pizza and you can keep the TV turned off.
Who will you give your allegiance to? Jesus, who commands us to love our wives’, or your own self-styled idols?
(The guys in our church were very recently challenged on this by Flo Visser at our annual Men’s Camp.)