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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Icicle 2/10/17
We were  dazzled by the sparkling icicles that draped this tree as we walked out of one of our companies last week.

"Enjoying The Pleasures Of Sin"
(For A Season)

Message summary: The choice before us: Pleasures for a season or Pleasures for all eternity. Today's message is a little long but sometimes that happens.

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"Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in Thy presence is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11). "Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season" (Hebrews 11:25).

"O how the world to evil allures me, O how my heart is tempted to sin"

Yesterday I passed one of the many roads in our area with an interesting name, Pleasure Road. Actually I suppose wherever you live you see interesting names for roads! One of my favorites is a prominent road near Atlantic City N.J. named Delilah Road. Men, you don't want to go down that road!!! There is a country road here in southern Lancaster County that sounds profane but is apparently named after someone before the word took on a different meaning. (No, I am not going to give the name of the road here!)

Pleasure Road, Lancaster PA
Pleasure Road, Lancaster County, PA

Consider with us the two pleasure roads we must travel. One offers pleasure for a season, the other pleasure for eternity. Last week I spoke to a friend and inquired about how his church was doing. The congregation has grown to the point that their expansion forced them to vacate their old facility and move into a larger one. Expecting to hear more good things about how the church is doing he informed me they are presently dealing with the fall-out after the dismissal of their longterm pastor who fell into a moral transgression. I know the pastor and had appreciated his stand for moral issues he had previously spoken up about in our local paper. How sad to hear of the reproach his actions has brought upon his ministry for God, his church and the community.

The failings of others can shake us, but at times like this I want to hear the words of the Apostle Paul, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12) and the Apostle Peter, "You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked" (2 Peter 3:17).

Today let us consider two verses that have two sharply contrasting Pleasure Roads. One reminds us of short-term, "pleasures for a season" (within the context of Hebrews 11:25), the other long-term "pleasures for eternity". One ends in death, the other in life.

Sin can certainly be pleasurable. After all, the writer of Hebrews forthrightly refers to "the pleasures of sin".  I have an ex-con friend who is an overcoming addict and I asked him to explain to me why partaking of an utterly destructive substance is so appealing. He told me to consider something considered pleasurable (he was actually quite explicit) and then to imagine an intensity of pleasure ten times that. Now that would be tempting! In fact his explanation is probably the most helpful I've ever heard.

However I know it would only be for a season, in the case of some drugs only moments followed by horrific heartache and destruction. Temptation begins when we are "carried away and enticed by our own lust" (James 1:14), and it feeds our sinful nature which will grow and master us. Temptation to sin would be meaningless if there was not an aspect of pleasure in the act. Life, from our youth to old age, is filled with daunting questions and choices we must make. In making those choices we ponder the consequences that will result from two contrasting decisions; obeying God or succumbing to our flesh.

Hebrews 11:25Moses had a critical decision to make as mentioned in our daily text: suffer mistreatment along with God's people or enjoy pleasurable sin for a season. I wonder how long he weighed that decision. Did it keep him awake at night as play by play he envisioned the consequences of his decision? We know from Scripture that he questioned God repeatedly at the burning bush; What if? Who am I to go to Pharoah? What shall I tell them? What if they don't believe me? What if the people don't listen to me? In his mind Moses thought he had very valid reasons for denying the voice of God.

Raised in the palaces of Egypt, the dominant world empire at that time, Moses was destined for its throne. He had the very best that Egypt offered to his generation which included "the pleasures of sin" spoken of in the daily text. These pleasures may not necessarily have been evil deeds but were sinful in the sense, that in fulfilling them, Moses would have missed God's greater plan for his life. Again, we come back to the decision he had to make: temporal suffering to gain eternal pleasure or temporal pleasure but eternal loss.

An old definition of sin from the Westminster catechism states, "Sin is any want of conformity to and transgression of the holy law of God." We often think of sin primarily in the sense of transgression, that is doing something that is forbidden. This is typically stated as "sins of commission". But there are also sins of omission (conformity to the holy law of God), that is, failing to do that which we are commanded to do. The apostle James wrote, "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" (James 4:17).

As followers of Christ we can so readily be seduced by the world's ways and as individual believers we must ever be on our guard against this seduction. I consider these candid words to the old hymn, "I Must Tell Jesus". "O how the world to evil allures me, O how my heart is tempted to sin..." * At 62 years of age the allurement and temptation of sin is still there so I must daily determine, "I will serve the Lord".

One of the allurements to sin is that there is often a pleasurable dimension to it, at least initially. This is the same trap that Satan has used from the beginning because it is so effective. He appeared to Eve by making the forbidden fruit more appealing than any other fruit from any other tree. It was the same lure that attracted David when he saw a beautiful woman bathing.

The daily text speaks of enjoying these "pleasures of sin". But these pleasures only last for a short, unspecified time and are inevitably followed by destruction. There is a sense of pleasure that comes with the "forbidden fruit" whatever form that may take, but it fades. Some will repent and forsake the sin, but others will repeat the sin trying to bring back the "pleasure" first experienced. That's why this passage describes it as "for a season". The pleasure once derived from that sin doesn't last so they go back for more.

Sadly, a few moments of sinful pleasure is often exchanged for a lifetime of sorrow and regret. Dabbling in sin can lead us where we never intended to go, hold us much longer than we ever planned and hurt more people than we could ever have imagined.

Finally today, let us consider the wonderful joy and lasting pleasures in living for Christ. I can proclaim with the Psalmist, "You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand" (Psalm 16:11). Let us resist the passing "pleasures of sin" and fully embrace the "eternal pleasures" extended to us by our loving Father!

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber:

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, as we read about Moses we learn a great deal from his act of obedience. Not only did his choice to experience mistreatment along with Your people provide an exodus for the Israelites, but it also provided a Biblical foundation for our lives throughout the centuries to our present day. We've gained so much from the spiritual truths taught through Moses' applied wisdom, his discipline, and his obedience in recording Your truths and principles. Help us not to partake of the forbidden fruit that litters the path of life You have laid before us, as You keep our eyes on the eternal pleasures that await us as we walk in obedience to You. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Study note: Bible teacher A.W. Pink writes, "God saves us from the pleasure or love of sin before He delivers from the penalty or punishment of sin. Necessarily so, for it would be neither an act of holiness nor of righteousness were He to grant a full pardon to one who was still a rebel against Him, loving that which He hates. God is a God of order throughout, and nothing ever more evidences the perfection of His works than the orderliness of them. And how does God save His people from the pleasure of sin? The answer is, “By imparting to them a nature which hates evil and loves holiness.” This takes place when they are born again, so that actual salvation begins with regeneration. Of course it does; where else could it commence? Fallen man can neither perceive his desperate need of salvation, nor come to Christ for it, till he has been renewed by the Holy Spirit.

Follow-up note from Brooksyne regarding her hand surgery:  Yesterday I had my follow-up visit to my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Peart, who operated on my hands using the mini-open technique for carpal tunnel release making only an inch incision on each palm. He did this on Thursday, Feb. 2, so he was quite impressed with my quick and smooth recovery from the operation. I no longer need bandages, I can now immerse my hands in water, and use my hands and wrists to the extent that they are not in pain. I was already back to most activities including piano, typing, and other such chores within days of the surgery. The older techniques for carpal tunnel release were much more invasive requiring longer periods of recovery. I am now doing strengthening exercises several times a day at home so that I will regain full range of motion in my wrists. What a tremendous blessing to not awaken 3 to 4 nights a week due to burning, tingling sensations in my hands. This went on for years making me extra happy to no longer bear this burden as I found relief the very first night following surgery. Thank you again for your interest, your prayers, and well wishes!

A joyful testimony of restoration: In the course of life and ministry we meet a lot of people. Yesterday I visited for a few minutes with a man I had seen in a local business in the course of our chaplaincy work some 15 years ago. At that time he was going through a very difficult situation and bore his heart to me one time in his office. Shortly after that he left the company he worked for and I also left the chaplain service company I worked for and we lost contact. What a joy to hear a testimony of restoration in his life!

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Living for Jesus"  Video 

"I Must Tell Jesus"  Video  Johnny Cook

"By the Mark"  Video  Dailey & Vincent

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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