The Ten (10 Commandments Bible Study)

The Ten: Lesson 12

the-ten

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Exodus 20:17

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

Ephesians 5:3,5

But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints…For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

James 4:1-3

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.


Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to [Jesus], “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Hebrews 13:5

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Colossians 3:5, 12-15

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

1 Timothy 6:6-11

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Read through all of today’s passages. What does it mean to covet? How are coveting, jealousy, and greed related? Compare the tenth Commandment to the other nine. In what way is the sin of coveting different from the sins in the other Commandments? Is coveting observable? What specific things does the tenth Commandment tell us not to covet (Exodus 20:17)?

2. How is coveting at the root of murder, theft, adultery, and lying? The Ephesians and Colossians passages say that coveting is idolatry. Why? Can you think of any other sins coveting could lead to? How could recognizing coveting and putting it to death help prevent it from snowballing into more sin?

3. Think about coveting, a secret sin of the heart, in the immediate context of the tenth Commandment (God is setting apart Israel as His own special people and establishing them as a nation). How would obedience to this Commandment have been conducive to keeping law and order in civil society?

4. Do you think the nations surrounding Israel who worshiped pagan gods had laws against coveting? Why or why not? If any of them did, what would be the difference between a false god making and enforcing a law against a secret sin of the heart and God making and enforcing such a law? How would a law against a secret sin have pointed Israel’s pagan neighbors to the one true God who sees and judges the hidden secrets of the heart? How would this have been a testimony to God’s power and omniscience?

5. According to the Ephesians and James passages, is coveting characteristic of Christians or lost people? What does James say are some of the results of coveting? How might having a covetous heart affect our prayer life? (James 4:3) What does Ephesians 5:5 say is the consequence of unrepentant coveting?

6. What role did coveting play in the parable Jesus told in the Luke passage? Explain Luke 12:15 in your own words.

7. Examine the Hebrews, Colossians and 1 Timothy passages and compare them with the tenth Commandment in Exodus 20:17. Is the Old Testament instruction about coveting singular (one part) or binary (two parts)? The New Testament instruction? What are the “thou shalt not” and the “thou shalt” instructions about coveting in these New Testament passages? Instead of coveting, we are to be c_____. (Hebrews 13:5) Why, according to Hebrews 13:5, are Christians to be content? How does it demonstrate to others that Christ is sufficient when we are content instead of covetous? Read Colossians 3:15. How can thankfulness counteract coveting?


Homework:

When we covet, we are essentially saying to God, “What You have so lovingly and graciously provided for me isn’t good enough. I deserve better.” Coveting brings with it the sin of ingratitude toward God. Spend some time in prayer asking God to bring to mind any areas of your life in which you’re coveting, and ask Him to forgive you.

Make a list of the things, people, and life circumstances God has blessed you with and keep it handy (maybe in your notes app in your phone?). This week if you find yourself coveting something, someone, or a certain circumstance, drop what you’re doing, go back to that list and offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for what He has already provided for you. Ask Him to make your heart content.

Marriage, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Marriage: It’s My Pity Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To ~ 7 Ways to Take Your Focus Off Yourself and Put it Back on Christ

Originally published November 5, 2014

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Let’s face it, Ladies, there are days when even the best of marriages* are just plain tough. Hubby’s in a bad mood and snaps at you. There’s no money in the budget for that thing you really want to buy. You’re feeling overworked, underappreciated, and beyond stressed. It can be all too easy to haul out the party hats and confetti, hunker down in the corner, and throw yourself one big “woe is me” bash. Have you ever stopped to think about whether or not it’s biblical to feel sorry for ourselves? Believe it or not, there’s not a single passage of Scripture that says it’s OK. So what does the Bible say about how to handle those times in our marriages when we want to indulge in self pity? Let’s find out.

1. Have the mind of Christ

But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16

take every thought captive to obey Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

be conformed to the image of his Son, Romans 8:29

As Christians, Christ is to be the master of everything we are, not just our actions, but our thoughts and feelings as well. We are to act like Jesus, talk like Jesus, think like Jesus, and even feel like Jesus. Punished and executed for sins He did not commit, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”(Isaiah 53:3) Jesus had much more reason than you or I to feel sorry for Himself, but did He? Then, should we?

2. Have the attitude of Christ

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, Philippians 2:5-6

When we follow Christ, we adopt the same attitude towards others He had. Jesus was prepared for the fact that people He loved and served, even those closest to Him, would let Him down. Still, He loved them and forgave them. Your husband is a broken, sinful human being (just like you). He’s going to mess up. A lot (just like you). Being prepared for, and accepting, that fact (along with a healthy understanding of how many times you’re going to let him down) can help put things into perspective.

but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:7

Jesus put aside all of His rights to be served and esteemed and, instead, focused on serving others, even those who didn’t deserve it and were ungrateful. Instead of retreating into hurt the next time your husband blows it, what if you took a deep breath, put your rights aside, and did something to lovingly serve him?

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8

Jesus humbled Himself. He was so focused on obedience to God that He gladly gave up His life for people who hated Him. Often, our obedience only takes us to the edge of where we’re comfortable. What kind of impact would it have on your marriage if you had the same level of humility and obedience Christ had? How could that humility and obedience to Christ help ward off self pity?

3. Give thanks

give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

It is not God’s will for you to feel sorry for yourself. It is God’s will for you to give thanks in all circumstances, including a lousy day in your marriage. If you can’t think of anything to be thankful for, tell that to God, and ask Him to show you things about your husband that you can thank Him for. Even if you have to start with the small things (Does he have good breath? Tie his shoes neatly? Floss semi-weekly?), start somewhere. You’ll be amazed at the way your perspective shifts from the negative to the positive as you thank God for your husband’s good qualities.

4. Be content

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. Philippians 4:11

Whatever situation. Ever read about Paul’s little “whatever situations”? You can find some of them in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. I’m guessing you’ve never been shipwrecked or stoned, not to mention all the other things on his list, which, by the way, Paul wrote while he was in prison. Yet he said he had learned to be content. How? Paul found his contentment, not in his circumstances, but in Christ. Jerry McGuire not witstanding, your husband does not, will not, and cannot “complete you.” Only Christ can satisfy the deepest needs of your heart. When you lay hold of that, you will find true contentment. Your husband will let you down. Christ never will.

5. Rejoice in suffering

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:2-4

God wants to do something greater in you than just make you feel better in the moment. He has long range plans to grow you in endurance, character, and hope. That’s great news, and certainly cause for joy. So instead of directing your gaze inward, look down the road to where you’re more mature in Christ, and rejoice. God is at work on your heart. (And P.S.- Rejoicing will make you feel better in the moment, too. Pitying yourself will only make you feel worse.)

6. Put yourself aside and put your husband first

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

There’s that H-word again. Humility. When I read this passage, I think back to the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. The One to whom every knee will one day bow got down on His hands and knees and took on the disgusting task that normally fell to the lowest, least talented servant. If the God of the universe could put ahead of Himself these men whom He personally knit together in the womb, who would, in mere hours, deny and desert Him at the darkest time of His life, is He asking too much of us to put our husbands ahead of our hurt feelings?

7. Change your husband by changing your behavior

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 1 Peter 3:1-2

It seems counterintuitive. “Is your husband being an ungodly jerk? Don’t nag him or pout about it; submit to him with respectful and pure conduct.” The world would call this weakness and say you’re being a doormat. Quite the contrary. If you’ve ever tried putting this passage into practice, you know just how much strength it takes to do the godly thing when everything in you wants to strike back or retreat in self pity. To realize that, regardless of how your husband acts, you are responsible to God to do what is right in His eyes. But God’s word is full of paradoxes and counterintuitives. The question is, do we believe God when He says this is the way to win our husbands to godliness, and do we trust Him enough to obey His word?

Being a Christian wife pursuing growth in godliness is tough. It can seem impossible to forge ahead in obedience to Christ on those difficult days in your marriage when all you really want to do is retreat into that corner and whimper. But you have a Savior who understands your weaknesses,  loves and cares for you deeply,  and promises to give you the strength you need to do anything He calls you to.

Even the strength to take off the hat, sweep up the confetti, and say, “The party’s over.”


THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT SATISFACTION THROUGH CHRIST.

Christian women, Idolatry, Sanctification, Throwback Thursday, Women

Throwback Thursday ~ Little Women

Originally published June 13, 2014PicsArt_1402623766791

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I’d rather be true to His holy name

We sang this lovely hymn in church the other day, and it was perfect timing. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about women I’ve known across the years, women I’ve known of (but not personally) across the years, and the woman I’ve known best across the years, me. And I’ve been thinking about how and where we find our worth, fulfillment, and contentment and where we should find it: in Christ.

I don’t know about you, but one of the sins I constantly struggle against is coveting. It’s a sin we don’t think about very much. A private one that, often, nobody knows about except God and me.

And you know what I covet? What I think we all covet? Men’s applause. Worldwide fame. Or, at least, fame in my little corner of the world.

When we were children in Sunday school, coveting was sometimes explained to us as “wanting for ourselves what someone else has.” Her new doll. His fancier bike. It’s a decent kid-level definition, but in the same way that Jesus reminded us that the root sin of murder is hate and the root sin of adultery is lust we need to mature in our understanding of coveting, and realize that it also has a root sin: discontentment. Sometimes, it’s discontentment with what we have (greed), and sometimes it’s discontentment with who we are.

And who are we?

As Believers, we are children of the God of the universe who, despite our sin and rebellion against Him, loved us enough to lay down His own life to rescue us. He listens to us. He accepts us. He provides for us. And don’t even get me started on Heaven.

And if contemplating all that isn’t enough, the Bible tells us to be content. So why aren’t we? Why woud we rather have Jesus and men’s applause, and worldwide fame?

Because, as John Calvin so aptly put it, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” Our sinful flesh is always looking to gratify itself rather than glorify God. Any time our hearts say, “God’s not enough. I want more,” we’re committing idolatry, because whatever the “more” is, it’s other than God and lesser than God, and we’re seeking it instead of seeking God. And, as women, one of the biggest “more” idols we seek is feeling good about ourselves, or feeling worthy of love and acceptance.

But instead of looking to Christ and letting Him define for us a right perspective of ourselves, we hit the crack pipe of the praise of men. It’s fast. It’s cheap. It’s easy. And the high is nearly instantaneous. How? Allow me to introduce you to some frenemies of mine:

Mother and Daughter HuggingMarla MegaMom- Marla lives for and through her kids. Their successes are her successes. Their failures, her failures. She subtly or overtly pressures her kids to achieve because if they fail she’s afraid others won’t see her as a good mom. And being a failure as a mom means being a failure in life.

Woman Singing

Dina Diva- Dina literally seeks the applause of others. She’s the top church soloist and the star of every Christmas production. She’s a public speaker or an instrumentalist or an actress, anything that can be done on a stage. Dina doesn’t feel good about herself unless people are clapping for her.

woman-164299_640-1978279293Veronica Victim- Poor Veronica. Everything in her life is always going wrong at home, at work, at church, with friends, with her health, with her car, with her dog. Nobody understands just how hard Veronica has it, so she makes it her life’s mission to let people know. In every story she tells, Veronica is the victim, and somebody else (or everybody else) is the bad guy. Please feel sorry for Veronica, because that’s the only way she can feel better about herself.

woman_angel_costume_kindlephoto-8131448Helen the Heroine- Helen is Veronica’s cousin. In every story Helen tells, she’s the heroine, the paragon of virtue, the one who did everything right short of severing a limb to make everything work out, and somebody else is the bad guy. Helen is divorced and the bad guy is usually her ex-husband, but she’s versataile enough to apply her story telling skills to situations at work, church, with friends, etc. Helen thinks if you don’t see her as a heroine, she’s worthless.

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Photo courtesy of CostumeCollection.com.au

Sally Superwoman- Sally does everything, and she does it superbly. She’s employee of the year at work and world’s best wife and mom at home. She’s a gourmet cook, flawlessly recreates every cake and craft on Pinterest, and her house looks like a photo shoot for Better Homes and Gardens. Other women know she’s got it all together, so she keeps all her plates spinning at a furious pace, because if one of them fell where would she be?

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Popular Polly- Polly is everybody’s friend. She’s one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet with never a cross word for, or about, anybody. She agrees with (or at least doesn’t obviously disagree with) whatever is being said by the person she’s talking to at the moment, so it can be hard to pin down what she really believes. When someone unfriends/unfollows Polly on social media, she takes it personally, wondering what she did wrong. She only likes herself if enough other people like her.

reading-216862_640Know It All Nettie- Maybe she’s got multiple degrees, or maybe she’s just well read, but Nettie is an expert. In everything. She sees it as her calling to educate people, starting a lot of sentences with, “Well, actually…” and rarely asking questions that would reveal her lack of knowledge on a subject. Ignorance is a weakness in Nettie’s mind, and she wants to be seen as strong.

MP900427741_kindlephoto-8317786 Maisy the Martyr- Whenever there’s a request for helpers at church, someone to pull overtime or fill in for a co-worker, volunteers at the soup kitchen, the fulfillment of the smallest need of her family, Maisy will be there, working tirelessly. She secretly gets angry when no one recognizes her for all her hard work or when people take advantage of her, but she’s afraid to say no because she’s afraid people will be upset with her, and what kind of person would she be then?

Woman Doing Sit-ups Let’s Get Physical Phyllis- Whether she’s one to wear revealing clothes so all the men stare or she’s an organic, vegan workout queen, or she’s a clotheshorse, Phyllis is all about one thing: her body and how it looks. Did a construction worker whilstle at her today? A co-worker compliment her outfit? If not, maybe Phyllis had better lose a few more pounds or get that plastic surgery she’s been considering. After all, if people stop looking, she’s nothing.

man-315069_640Man-datory Maude- Maude always has a man. Always. Preferably an awesome one, but even a mediocre or lousy man is better than no man at all. Why? It’s tangible proof somebody wants her. Otherwise, how will people be able to see she’s a worthwhile person?

MP900289528Take Charge Tallulah- Follow? You must be joking, darling. Tallulah was born to lead and plays second fiddle to no one. She’s the chair of every committee she’s on, and always the one to round up the worker bees and start doling out orders. No points for second place. If you’re not first, you’re last. Tallulah needs the submission of others to feel self confident.

Are you one of these women? Or, if you’re as Sybil as I am, maybe you’re all of these women. Little women, all. Little, because Maisy, Helen, Sally, and all the rest are coveting and settling for crumbs of approval from others when God is offering them the whole bakery of His delight in them. Little, because they’re zeroing in on one tiny aspect of their lives to earn the praise of men instead of lifting their eyes to the broad expanse of Heaven and focusing on the Christ who loves them and has set them free to rest in His acceptance of them through His shed blood.

There’s nothing wrong with eating right or being friendly, or serving, singing, or teaching. Those are all good things. But just as God can take the most evil things and use them for good, we, because of our sinful nature have a tendency to take good things and use them for evil. And evil isn’t too strong a word when we’re talking about taking the good gifts and talents God has given us and using them to pursue idolatry.

So what can we do? Romans 12:21 tells us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” When that evil coveting of praise and notoriety rears its ugly head:

  • Overcome it by confessing your coveting and idolatry and asking God to forgive you for it.
  • Overcome it by asking God to help you do everything for His glory, so that men will praise Him and make His name famous instead of yours.
  • Overcome it by letting go and saying no. If you’re Dina, it’s OK to let somebody else have the leading role. If you’re Maude, it’s OK to stay home on date night. If you’re Veronica and someone asks how you’re doing, it’s OK to smile and say, “Fine.”
  • Overcome it by preaching the gospel to yourself. Remember how big God is, how small and weak you are and the lengths of love that He went to to save you anyway. Not because of who you are, but because of who He is. Rest in that, and praise and thank God for it.

And let’s have no more of these little women.

Old Testament, Sanctification, Sunday School

Solomon: A Season of Discontent ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 6-22-14

Solomon: A Season of Discontent

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 25 ~ June 15- 21
Psalm 134, 146-150, 1 Kings 9-11, 2 Chronicles 8-9,
Proverbs 25-29, Ecclesiastes 1-12

Solomon: A Season of Discontent

Bill Gates had nothing on Solomon. Solomon was beyond wealthy, he was the wisest man that ever lived, and he reigned during a time of peace and prosperity. Why would he throw all that away?

1 Kings 10-11:11, Ecclesiastes 2:1-11

Solomon Had It All- 1 Kings 10
Fame and Reputation (1-2)-
Solomon’s reputation was global. He was so compellingly renown that the Queen of Sheba –1200 miles away– had not only heard of him and his accomplishments, but felt driven to make the long and arduous trip to see him for herself. And she was only one of many nobles who made such visits (24-25). He was a rock star of rock stars. Everybody wanted to see him.

Praise and Admiration (3-8)-
The queen (and presumably most other nobles who visited him) heaped praise and admiration upon Solomon for his wisdom (4), his personal prosperity (4-5), his support staff (5), and the offerings he made at the temple (5). “Gushing” would be a good word. Who wouldn’t love that?

A Godly Testimony (9, Matthew 5:16)-
The queen (and presumably most other nobles who visited him) attributed all of Solomon’s superlatives to the blessing of God. His riches, wisdom, etc., were not just to make him famous and comfortable, they were primarily to glorify God by making people aware that God was the one responsible for all these blessings.

In a similar way, Jesus tells us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) The light we shine is not our own riches or wisdom or opulence, but the riches, wisdom, and opulence of Christ, so that they will give glory to God and be saved.

Swag (10ff)-
4.5 tons of gold and a never equaled abundance of spices from one visitor (10) and plenty of gifts from other visitors (25). 25 tons of gold a year (14). Hundreds of golden shields for his soldiers (16-17). A one of a kind gold and ivory throne (18-20). All gold drinking vessels (21). Silver was not considered anything (21), it was common as stone (27). Horses, horsemen, chariots (26-29).

There was nothing obtainable that Solomon didn’t have plenty of. He wanted for nothing and had the finest of everything.

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Vanity- Ecclesiastes 2:1-11, 3:11
Often we carry around the thought: If I just had ______, I’d be happy. A new car, a better job, a husband, better health, more friends. But Solomon had everything he could have possibly wanted, and yet he said it was all vanity (pointless, empty, meaningless). Why?

Because, as 3:11 tells us, God “has put eternity into man’s heart.” We were created by God, for God, and for the things of God. Before Adam and Eve sinned, nothing seemed meaningless or boring or dissatisfying to them. “Wanting more out of life” didn’t even exist as a concept. And ever since they got kicked out of the Garden, we’ve been trying to claw our way back in. We try to get there through money or relationships or success, but none of those things will satisfy our craving for Eden, because we weren’t created for stuff. We were created for fellowship with God, and nothing less will do.

Trashing the Treasure- 1 Kings 11:1-11, Deuteronomy 17:17, 2 Corinthians 10:5
So, if Solomon was so wise and knew that joy and contentment are only found in God, why didn’t he just find joy and contentment in God instead of throwing everything away by disobeying God, worshiping idols he knew were false?

Because of sin.

If we go back to the beginning of Solomon’s reign in chapter 3, we see that “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father.” (3) We see him humbling himself in complete dependence on God (7-9). As we walk through the subsequent chapters, we see Solomon’s increasing wisdom, wealth, accomplishments, and praise by men. Maybe he doesn’t feel quite so humble or dependent on God anymore. Along the way, he’s gathering 700 wives and 300 concubines. Foreign wives and concubines, whom God had explicitly told Israel not to intermarry with (2).

Deuteronomy 17:17 says, “And [the king] shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.”

Gradually, through the years Solomon had disobeyed this command over a thousand times. And every time he disobeyed it, he drove the wedge between himself and God just a little bit deeper, until he finally turned away from God to idols.

Solomon didn’t just wake up one morning and suddenly decide to turn from a life of loving and walking with the Lord to a life of idol worship. Sin crept in and Solomon said yes to it time and time again until it completely pushed God out of the picture.

This is the way Satan works in our lives as well. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to have an affair. It starts with an attraction– a lustful or covetous thought that you entertain instead of killing and repenting of. It moves on to flirting, then a deeper than appropriate friendship, then an emotional attachment, and then an affair. All along the way, we continue saying yes to sin, and no to God, until, finally, we push God out of the picture. This is why it is so important to “take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2 Cor.) because every sin starts with a wayward thought. We must turn from even the thought of sin, lest it snowball and end up controlling us.

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
Yes, you can, if you’re a believer. What can Solomon’s story teach us?

  • Preach the gospel to yourself, often. Remember the sin Christ saved you from, what it cost Him, and His great mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
  • Don’t entertain “small” sins. They grow into bigger and bigger sins.
  • Walk in repentance. We’re going to sin, but when we do, we need to turn from it immediately and ask God’s forgiveness.
  • Don’t buy the lie that stuff or circumstances or accomplishments will fulfill us. We need to stay in God’s word, stay in prayer, and stay in fellowship with the church to learn to find our contentment in Christ.
Christian women, Idolatry, Sanctification, Women

Little Women

PicsArt_1402623766791

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I’d rather be true to His holy name

We sang this lovely hymn in church the other day, and it was perfect timing. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about women I’ve known across the years, women I’ve known of (but not personally) across the years, and the woman I’ve known best across the years, me. And I’ve been thinking about how and where we find our worth, fulfillment, and contentment and where we should find it: in Christ.

I don’t know about you, but one of the sins I constantly struggle against is coveting. It’s a sin we don’t think about very much. A private one that, often, nobody knows about except God and me.

And you know what I covet? What I think we all covet? Men’s applause. Worldwide fame. Or, at least, fame in my little corner of the world.

When we were children in Sunday school, coveting was sometimes explained to us as “wanting for ourselves what someone else has.” Her new doll. His fancier bike. It’s a decent kid-level definition, but in the same way that Jesus reminded us that the root sin of murder is hate and the root sin of adultery is lust we need to mature in our understanding of coveting, and realize that it also has a root sin: discontentment. Sometimes, it’s discontentment with what we have (greed), and sometimes it’s discontentment with who we are.

And who are we?

As Believers, we are children of the God of the universe who, despite our sin and rebellion against Him, loved us enough to lay down His own life to rescue us. He listens to us. He accepts us. He provides for us. And don’t even get me started on Heaven.

And if contemplating all that isn’t enough, the Bible tells us to be content. So why aren’t we? Why woud we rather have Jesus and men’s applause, and worldwide fame?

Because, as John Calvin so aptly put it, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” Our sinful flesh is always looking to gratify itself rather than glorify God. Any time our hearts say, “God’s not enough. I want more,” we’re committing idolatry, because whatever the “more” is, it’s other than God and lesser than God, and we’re seeking it instead of seeking God. And, as women, one of the biggest “more” idols we seek is feeling good about ourselves, or feeling worthy of love and acceptance.

But instead of looking to Christ and letting Him define for us a right perspective of ourselves, we hit the crack pipe of the praise of men. It’s fast. It’s cheap. It’s easy. And the high is nearly instantaneous. How? Allow me to introduce you to some frenemies of mine:

Mother and Daughter HuggingMarla MegaMom- Marla lives for and through her kids. Their successes are her successes. Their failures, her failures. She subtly or overtly pressures her kids to achieve because if they fail she’s afraid others won’t see her as a good mom. And being a failure as a mom means being a failure in life.

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Dina Diva- Dina literally seeks the applause of others. She’s the top church soloist and the star of every Christmas production. She’s a public speaker or an instrumentalist or an actress, anything that can be done on a stage. Dina doesn’t feel good about herself unless people are clapping for her.

woman-164299_640-1978279293Veronica Victim- Poor Veronica. Everything in her life is always going wrong at home, at work, at church, with friends, with her health, with her car, with her dog. Nobody understands just how hard Veronica has it, so she makes it her life’s mission to let people know. In every story she tells, Veronica is the victim, and somebody else (or everybody else) is the bad guy. Please feel sorry for Veronica, because that’s the only way she can feel better about herself.

woman_angel_costume_kindlephoto-8131448Helen the Heroine- Helen is Veronica’s cousin. In every story Helen tells, she’s the heroine, the paragon of virtue, the one who did everything right short of severing a limb to make everything work out, and somebody else is the bad guy. Helen is divorced and the bad guy is usually her ex-husband, but she’s versataile enough to apply her story telling skills to situations at work, church, with friends, etc. Helen thinks if you don’t see her as a heroine, she’s worthless.

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Photo courtesy of CostumeCollection.com.au

Sally Superwoman- Sally does everything, and she does it superbly. She’s employee of the year at work and world’s best wife and mom at home. She’s a gourmet cook, flawlessly recreates every cake and craft on Pinterest, and her house looks like a photo shoot for Better Homes and Gardens. Other women know she’s got it all together, so she keeps all her plates spinning at a furious pace, because if one of them fell where would she be?

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Popular Polly- Polly is everybody’s friend. She’s one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet with never a cross word for, or about, anybody. She agrees with (or at least doesn’t obviously disagree with) whatever is being said by the person she’s talking to at the moment, so it can be hard to pin down what she really believes. When someone unfriends/unfollows Polly on social media, she takes it personally, wondering what she did wrong. She only likes herself if enough other people like her.

reading-216862_640Know It All Nettie- Maybe she’s got multiple degrees, or maybe she’s just well read, but Nettie is an expert. In everything. She sees it as her calling to educate people, starting a lot of sentences with, “Well, actually…” and rarely asking questions that would reveal her lack of knowledge on a subject. Ignorance is a weakness in Nettie’s mind, and she wants to be seen as strong.

MP900427741_kindlephoto-8317786 Maisy the Martyr- Whenever there’s a request for helpers at church, someone to pull overtime or fill in for a co-worker, volunteers at the soup kitchen, the fulfillment of the smallest need of her family, Maisy will be there, working tirelessly. She secretly gets angry when no one recognizes her for all her hard work or when people take advantage of her, but she’s afraid to say no because she’s afraid people will be upset with her, and what kind of person would she be then?

Woman Doing Sit-ups Let’s Get Physical Phyllis- Whether she’s one to wear revealing clothes so all the men stare or she’s an organic, vegan workout queen, or she’s a clotheshorse, Phyllis is all about one thing: her body and how it looks. Did a construction worker whilstle at her today? A co-worker compliment her outfit? If not, maybe Phyllis had better lose a few more pounds or get that plastic surgery she’s been considering. After all, if people stop looking, she’s nothing.

man-315069_640Man-datory Maude- Maude always has a man. Always. Preferably an awesome one, but even a mediocre or lousy man is better than no man at all. Why? It’s tangible proof somebody wants her. Otherwise, how will people be able to see she’s a worthwhile person?

MP900289528Take Charge Tallulah- Follow? You must be joking, darling. Tallulah was born to lead and plays second fiddle to no one. She’s the chair of every committee she’s on, and always the one to round up the worker bees and start doling out orders. No points for second place. If you’re not first, you’re last. Tallulah needs the submission of others to feel self confident.

Are you one of these women? Or, if you’re as Sybil as I am, maybe you’re all of these women. Little women, all. Little, because Maisy, Helen, Sally, and all the rest are coveting and settling for crumbs of approval from others when God is offering them the whole bakery of His delight in them. Little, because they’re zeroing in on one tiny aspect of their lives to earn the praise of men instead of lifting their eyes to the broad expanse of Heaven and focusing on the Christ who loves them and has set them free to rest in His acceptance of them through His shed blood.

There’s nothing wrong with eating right or being friendly, or serving, singing, or teaching. Those are all good things. But just as God can take the most evil things and use them for good, we, because of our sinful nature have a tendency to take good things and use them for evil. And evil isn’t too strong a word when we’re talking about taking the good gifts and talents God has given us and using them to pursue idolatry.

So what can we do? Romans 12:21 tells us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” When that evil coveting of praise and notoriety rears its ugly head:

  • Overcome it by confessing your coveting and idolatry and asking God to forgive you for it.
  • Overcome it by asking God to help you do everything for His glory, so that men will praise Him and make His name famous instead of yours.
  • Overcome it by letting go and saying no. If you’re Dina, it’s OK to let somebody else have the leading role. If you’re Maude, it’s OK to stay home on date night. If you’re Veronica and someone asks how you’re doing, it’s OK to smile and say, “Fine.”
  • Overcome it by preaching the gospel to yourself. Remember how big God is, how small and weak you are and the lengths of love that He went to to save you anyway. Not because of who you are, but because of who He is. Rest in that, and praise and thank God for it.

And let’s have no more of these little women.