Not All That Glitters is Gold

glittering goldExodus 7:8-13 – The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, [9] “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.” [10] So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. [11] Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: [12] Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. [13] Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.

Exodus 7:20-22 – Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. [21] The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt. [22] But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.

Acts 16:16-18 – Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. [17] This girl followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” [18] She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” At that moment the spirit left her.


Parlor Tricks

I have never quite understood how the magicians of Egypt could perform the same miracles as Moses and Aaron, at least a few of them. Well, we know that they weren’t exactly the same miracles, but they fooled enough of the people enough of the time to be considered the same.

Let me back up.

The Scene

Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh and his court. Just after Aaron threw his staff to the ground, it became a snake. That would have impressed me. But it didn’t seem to impress Pharaoh. What did he do? He summoned his wise men, sorcerers, and magicians to do the same thing. And they did, sort of. Aaron’s snake ate all of their snakes. God’s little way of reminding folks who’s sovereign and who’s not.

Then there was the scene at the Nile River. It was there Moses and Aaron turned the Nile’s water into blood. That would get my attention. Not Pharaoh. He rounded up his FX artists again and, just like before, had them do the same thing as Moses and Aaron.

In the New Testament Too

This isn’t confined to just the Old Testament. In the New Testament we learn of a slave girl, “who had a spirit by which she predicted the future.” And like so many of the demons who recognized who Jesus really was, this slave girl’s “spirit” understood that Paul and company were “servants of the Most High God,” and were telling the people “the way to be saved.”

In one sense it was good that she (or rather, the spirit in her) recognized who Paul and his companions were. But at the end of the day, it was still a demonic spirit and, by definition, up to no good. That’s why Paul cast out the spirit from the girl in the name of Jesus Christ.

Our Need to Discern

Not all that glitters is gold. Not all miracles are of God. Not all spirituality is Christian spirituality. Not all visions are from God. We make a grave error indeed when we assume, undiscerningly, that any and every sign and wonder is automatically from God. Too much in God’s Word tells us otherwise.

That’s why humility is key here. We must have a teachable spirit. We need to obey God and his Word. Scripture alone must be our final, ultimate, and sufficient authority, not our experience and feelings. The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 4:1,

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

That is wise counsel. And it’s the only sure way we’ll stand firm to the end.


Walking Points

• Have you ever experienced someone claiming to have a “word from God” that did not seem to be Scriptural? What was it? How did you respond?
• What are the dangers in accepting such a claim without discernment?
• How can you “test the spirits to see whether they are from God?”
• Do you have a strong enough foundation in your knowledge of Scripture to spot false spirits? If not, begin meeting with a couple of men regularly to study and pray over God’s Word together, seeking encouragement, correction, and training from the Lord.


Prayer

Gracious God of truth. I do not desire to be led astray by every “shiny” word others share with me. I want to be gracious toward them, yet always discerning. Lead me with your Spirit into the Word you first inspired when it was written and which you continue to inspire as I read it. Give me the wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and discernment you promise throughout your Word. And please let that renewal of my mind lead to the transformation of my life. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

• Give me greater love for those who are hard to love.
• Help me to be compassionate and kind to those in need, even when it’s inconvenient.
• Pour out upon me your courage and boldness to love those who do not know you and to share with them your Gospel, in word and deed.
• Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
• Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

• My family
• My family and friends who do not have a saving relationship with Christ
• For those in my other spheres of influence who do not know Christ
• For evangelists around our city, country, and world who risk much in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those who are lost
• Other needs

Guaranteed Wisdom

wisdomHow Many Years of Experience?

Age does not guarantee wisdom. Not even experience guarantees wisdom. There is nothing magical about the lapse of time in one’s life that causes him to become a sage for the ages. We probably all know someone who doesn’t have 25 years of experience at his job, but instead, has experienced the same one year, 25 times in a row. No growth or maturation has taken place.

This was the case in the story of Job. Job’s three friends, older men in the community, were all sharing their insights as to why poor ol’ Job was experiencing such suffering. Each one was way off the mark. Finally, the younger, less experienced Elihu, who had been respectfully silently, observing the back-and-forth of his elders, could no longer sit idly by and allow such error and ignorance to prevail. He responded,

“I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. [7] I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ [8] But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding. [9] It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right. (Job 32:6-9)

Elihu then went on to provide his diagnoses of Job’s situation.

The Real Source of Wisdom

We learn a very important principle from Elihu: Wisdom does not come automatically with age. Some folks never seem to learn. Instead, true wisdom comes from God himself. Wisdom, God’s wisdom, must be desired and intentionally sought. That takes effort, self-discipline, and commitment. But it will be found only in this way.

The chief source from which we gain godly wisdom is God’s Word. Psalm 119:99 says,
“I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.

Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible and its focus, (almost exclusively so), is God’s Word. In that chapter, God’s Word is also referred to as his statute, law, precept, decree, and command. In each case it refers to God’s revelation of himself and his will to his people. His wisdom for the ages can be found therein. This is how he has chosen to guide us. Psalm 119:24 says, “Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”

Godly friends and teachers, informed by God’s Word are treasures. But it must be his Word that is the primary source for wisdom. I’ll take a mentor who has been seasoned by years of experience almost every time over a younger, less-experienced person, but especially if the former has walked with God during those years and sat under the tutelage of God’s Word. That’s where wisdom will be found. That’s also why we must “delight” in God’s Word each day – that we too might learn, grow, and one day be a source of godly wisdom for someone else.


Walking Points

• Who do you know in your life that is older and has walked closely with the Lord throughout his years, faithfully learning from God’s Word? Share a little of what you have seen in his life to lead you to this opinion of him.
• Why not take him out to lunch and ask him questions about important lessons he’s learned, how he’s persevered with the Lord, etc.
• Are you walking faithfully with the Lord, delighting in his Word, and being influenced by it?
• Is there a younger man in the faith whom you can counsel with wisdom you’ve learned? Why not meet with him, not to be his “guru,” but to build a relationship with him. And, who knows, you may have some words of wisdom that will bless him.


Prayer

Gracious God, you are sovereign, good, and all-wise. You are in control of the universe you have made and know best how it works. You love me and have my best interest at heart. Furthermore, you not only have my best interest but know best how to bring it about in my life. Therefore, I will trust you. Thank you for the gift of your Word that provides direction for me to follow. I needn’t grope in the dark, tripping over obstacles, when your Word is such a radiant and trustworthy light in my life. In the name of the One who is the Light of the world, I pray. Amen.


This Week’s Prayer Guide

[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]

Petitions – prayers for yourself

• Give me greater knowledge, depth of insight, and understanding of God’s Word.
• Remind me daily of who I am in Christ. Let me be defined by who God says I am, not the world around me.
• Guide me into greater understanding and faithfulness of God’s call in my life.
• This week’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
• Other needs

Intercession – prayers for others

• My family
• My pastor(s), church staff, and missionaries
• Those struggling with anger, anxiety, or the overwhelming desire to please people at all costs
• Other needs