For several weeks now we have been focusing on our culture’s war with Christ and Christianity. But as we have been doing that I have made it clear that this war is not just a war of ideas or opinions, its not impersonal, but personal. There is someone behind it. The war is not just with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers. Satan hates God and everything good that God has made or God is doing. So we have seen Satan’s hatred of babies and children, of God’s image in man as male and female, of marriage, and of authority and submission. Satan has stooped to anything and stopped at nothing. He has initiated weapons of mass destruction like abortion and sexuality immorality, and spread lies about what God has said and sown the seeds of doubt and distrust in God’s Word, calling good evil and evil good. Last week I started the first half of two sermons on Satan’s attack on marriage by attacking God’s intentions for headship and submission. Satan has managed in our culture to turn headship and submission into things to be despised and resisted.
“Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah.” This is the beginning of the prophetic era. God started with a priest as His representative (Moses to Samuel), then He used the kings (Saul to Ahab). But then the kings rejected God, and He raised up the prophets. Don’t be deceived by appearances. It looked like all the power was with the kings, with the Baalists, it looked like Yahwehism was in retreat or defeated. The government was promoting raw paganism of the worst sort. Even as a matter of policy and approval, with funding support. It is always true that despite appearances, the Word of God is powerful and working.
Try to picture for a minute a stranger, walking unannounced into the White House up to the Second floor, past all the staff and security, and boldly entering the oval office and with authority declaring that all import and export trading will cease for several years until I say it will resume. And then as suddenly as he appeared, he disappears. Who was that masked man? Where did he come from, and where did he go? What did he say? Where did he get such authority? People of conviction and passion stand out to us. Especially in a cultural climate like ours where it was neither comfortable or convenient to take a stand for God. Everyone fears to get involved. In an age "moral pygmies" Elijah towers like a giant. F.B. Meyer called him a “colossus among men.” Alexander Whyte called him “a Mount Sinai of a man with a heart like a thunderstorm.” Alexander McClaren called him “the Martin Luther of the Old Testament.” James says Elijah was a man like us. Really? How many of you think that when you think about Elijah? Let’s talk about spiritual conviction and moral authority. Where does it come from, how can we get it? By observing Elijah's life we can see there is truth in what James says, especially if you notice the qualities or characteristics about Elijah that make up the definition of a Christian, one like us.
This series of sermons on “Did God Say?” is really a series on the battle of authority. Which authority are we going to follow? What voice are we going to believe? Is God’s Word true and authoritative or is the world’s view authoritative? Satan is assaulting the authority of God and His Word, to undermine the truth and credibility of God’s Word and erode our confidence in it. By sowing the seed of tolerance in our culture, Satan has made all social and moral issues seem neutral, we all can believe whatever we want; and we have to affirm the validity of everyone else’s opinions and beliefs. Tolerance and plurality and political correctness are king and God’s Word is bigoted, intolerant, insensitive, out dated and irrelevant. In the words of a Christian, French scholar from long ago: “Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established, that, unless we love the truth, we cannot know it” (Blaise Pascal). This is why, in the words of Jude 1:3, I am “appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” by God from the very beginning. I am making my appeal to you from God’s Word, not from my opinion or the world’s opinion. But we can’t be naïve about this. “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it” (George Orwell).
If you are reading along in I Kings, when you turn the page to chapter 17 Elijah the Tishbite steps onto the canvas of Scripture from out of nowhere. Like a meteor flashing across a dark sky. His sudden appearance makes him somehow a grand and romantic figure. We are drawn to and fascinated by this unique character, and his abrupt declaration underscores his mystery. If we are going to study the life of an individual it helps to know something of the history they were a part of. And when we learn something of the history, his sudden appearance will make more sense to us. He served during the reigns of King Ahab and Ahaziah, from 870s to 842 b.c. He appeared on the stage of public action during one of the darkest hours of Israel's sad history. The nation of Israel was in a moral free fall. Never before had the favored nation sunk so low, grievously and willfully rejecting God’s Word and departing from God. For well over 100 years Israel had been ruled by three great, famous and flawed men, Saul, David and Solomon. In the 58 years that had passed since the kingdom had been rent in two following the death of Solomon no less than seven kings had reigned over the ten northern tribes, and all of them without exception were wicked men. From the seeds planted by Solomon's pagan wives, his son Jeroboam introduced the first fruits of idolatry among the people of Israel. I will just go back to Ahab’s father Omri.
In this sermon series on Satan’s attack on God and God’s Word and God’s world, I have neglected to point out something important. Satan isn’t going to like it. And if he can he will try to get me to misspeak and he will try to get you to misunderstand. He will try to sow seeds of confusion and questioning and more lies. I have been very aware of walking through a minefield, very sobered by the seriousness of the issues and painfully aware of my inadequacy to do this well in a very limited amount of time. I appreciate one person taking the initiative to talk to me about something misunderstood in last week’s sermon, and I invite anyone with questions or concerns to do the same. I don’t want Satan to gain a foothold in any thing I say. And of course, pray for me for God’s grace and wisdom. This morning I am continuing our series of sermons under the title Did God Say …? That’s a reference to Satan’s words to Eve in the garden when he said: Genesis 3:1 “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Satan is hell-bent to destroy you and your life and everything good in your life. He is out to get God and he is out to get you. Our world lies in the power of the evil one, in the hands of the god of this age. If you are a Christian then as far as Satan is concerned you are one that got away, you are an escaped prisoner of the evil one and a danger to him. Most of us go through life ignorant of Satan’s work. He is always at work, subtly trying to subvert and mess with your life, your marriage, your kids, your thoughts, your impulses, your emotions, your plans, your ideas.
We are in the midst of a sermon series titled, “Did God Say … ? Satan’s Attack on … . We have been dealing with ways Satan has been spreading his vicious lies and hatred and death throughout the world and in our culture. When Satan asks the question, “Did God really say …?” you have to know that if you don’t know what God really said, the wrong answer is a death sentence. When Satan asked Eve that question he distorted what God said and she didn’t have the right response. The result was disastrous, death and destruction fell on the entire human race. When we question what God said or distort what God said or twist His words, it will not and does not go well for us. This is another way of saying that all of our problems, all of our issues in this world and in this culture of ours are religions problems, they are all spiritual problems. There is no separation between secular and sacred. Our battles are not with flesh and blood or about flesh and blood, but between the spiritual principalities and power. Ephesians 6:12-13 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. The battle is spiritual to the core, between God and Satan. And the most important weapon is God’s Word and knowing what God said. This morning we will focus on another one of Satan’s lies, a lie that strikes at the heart of our identity, at who we are, and how God has created us. Did God Say …? Satan’s attack on gender. Why would I pick this topic on Cadets Sunday? It occurred to me this is a very appropriate context. Our culture would say we shouldn’t have Cadets or Gems, they should all be together. Or at least girls should be allowed in Cadets and boys should be allowed in Gems. So what we are celebrating here today is counter-cultural, it is revolutionary, we are part of the resistance.
The context for our text this evening is the Upper Room and the Last Supper. These words flow out of a last supper, out of a love feast instituted for all His disciples in all ages and in all places. John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. In His last words alone with the disciples before leaving the earth, Jesus says something of immense importance. He speaks of a great and rare and invaluable grace, love one another. Love one another, a new commandment. But is this really new? Haven’t we been told to love before? Leviticus 19:18 says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What does it mean when our Lord and Master commands us with what He calls a new commandment? Notice with me four ways in which this is a new command.