Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cheated by deceitful stones

Micah 6:11
Shall I count them pure with the wicked balances, and with the bag of deceitful weights?

Hosea 12:7
He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress.

Cheated by deceitful stones

There once were two merchants that traded back and forth. There was a grocery and a baker. The grocery bought all of his bread from the baker and the baker bought all of his butter from the grocer. One day the grocer came to the baker and made a claim. “I think you have been cheating me on the bread. For years, I have bought pound loaves of bread from you and I think you are giving me less than a pound of bread. I have been weighing it and my bread does not weigh a pound anymore.” The baker replied, “I cannot believe that. For years I have been buying butter from you. Every pound of butter I purchase from you, I put on one side of the scale and I put your bread on the other side of the scale. It is always even.”

In biblical days, merchants didn’t have the weighing systems we have readily available today. In those days they used a scale or a balance, as it was often called. They would use stones for weighing. They had pound stones and other weighted stones that they would use as a counterbalance to determine the weight of the goods they were buying or selling. It was not an uncommon practice for a dishonest merchant to hollow out the inside of a stone. So that, when you thought you were buying a pound of product, you were actually purchasing less than a pound. You were paying for one pound but receiving less.

We operate a lot on faith when we go to the grocery. We look at the pound package of hamburger, or a pound of steak, depending on your particular tastes or budget and we trust that the grocery is actually giving us a pound.

Micah talked about being cheated with a bag of deceitful stones.

How many have ever been cheated?

The job of a salesman, whether honestly or dishonestly, is to convince you that the merchandise they have is worth the coin in your purse. Every car dealer is trying to convince you that the car they have is the best for your needs and worth the price they are asking. Every ad or commercial on TV is seeking one thing; to sell you on their product. They are trying to convince you of several things. They must first persuade you that this product as actually something you need. Then they must prove to you that they are your best choice for purchasing this product. Finally, they must convince you that the price they are asking is comparable to the value of the product being sold. If they fail to convince you in any of these, they will not make a sale.

Today, somewhere, Satan is cheating some soul.

He is working his hardest to convince a soul somewhere that they will be cheated out of something valuable by choosing to serve God. I would not have you be ignorant of certain facts. The Christian walk is a walk of sacrifice. Paul, in his letter to the church at Rome, tells them that they must present their bodies as living sacrifices. He tells them that there will be things that they must let go. There will be things that they must let pass.

There are churches that will tell you, as a child of God that you can live any way you want to live and you will still be saved. There are churches which will tell you everything is permissible and the Kingdom of God is still available. The devil has laid this hollowed out deceitful stone on the scale and has cheated many into believing everything is alright.

He will tell you that God is not interested in your personal life. He will try to convince you that God does not care how you conduct yourself in small matters. He is a liar. If you look deeply into the Word of God you will find that God has something to say about everything you do. He has words about how you eat, what you eat, how you dress, and how you present yourself to others. He has something to say about how you treat your family, your friends, your neighbors, strangers, and even your enemies. He has a word about how you treat your employees and your employers. He has words about how you treat your parents, your siblings, and your children. If you really want to know, and that is the key, God has a word about anything you do, see, hear, and say.

And yet, here we find Satan, standing at a wicked balance with his bag of deceitful weights, telling the world that God is far off and it doesn’t matter what you do.

I want to look at the authority and find out who is being cheated. I want to see if we are being cheated, and if we are, what we can do about it.

When I talk about the authority, I am talking about the word of God. To have a religious debate, one has to establish a couple of issues.

First, we must agree that the Word of god is the authority. If we cannot agree on this issue, the debate is meaningless. There must be a clear authority.

Second, we must understand that the Word if God is not a tug-o-war. It is not, “I have three scriptures that say this and you have two that say that, so I win.” These words agree. Genesis 1.1 agrees with Revelation 22.21. If there is any struggle, one of us has looked at something in the wrong light.

There are many books out there with great ideas. There are ‘how to’ books on everything under the sun. Whatever project you imagine to do, there is a how-to book somewhere. I remember in days when cars were much simpler to work on that I would use my Chilton’s Manual or my Hayes book to work on my old 1967 mustang. If you want to add a room addition, there are books to give you detailed, step-by-step directions to accomplish your task.

If you plan to go to Heaven, there is a definitive step-by-step guide to help you to do just that. That guide is the Bible. There may be hundreds and thousands of ‘helper’ books, but this one book is the ultimate guide and authority. There were a couple of young men that came to my house one day with exciting news and a new book for me to consider. I told them that the book I relied on was my Bible. When their book agreed with the Bible it was unnecessary as I already had that word, and where their book disagreed with the Bible, I didn’t want it. I thanked them for their kind offer, but politely declined.

There are many things in this world that can offer you some measure of temporary pleasure. I would be remiss if I tried to convince you that there was no pleasure in the world. Hebrews tells us that Moses chose to suffer the afflictions of the people of God rather than the pleasures of sin for a season.

There are pleasures out there. They are for the season. I am telling you, even if this season lasted your lifetime, and you were able to enjoy these pleasures for all of your life, and you did not choose Christ, you have cheated yourself.

2nd John 7
For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

When we say that Jesus does not understand what I am going through, that Jesus does not know where I am, that Jesus does not know what I am feeling, we are denying that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. We deny that He came in the fullness of the flesh.

What is the danger in this?

If Jesus did not come fully in the flesh, then He could not fully redeem mankind. If He was not in all points tempted, like as sinful flesh, then He could not pay the full price for flesh. When we speak these words (launch this weapon) we remove his saving power. We destroy His keeping power. When we begin to think thought of Jesus not understanding where we stand, that is the work of the deceiver. He is standing beside you with his balance in his hand. His bag of deceitful weights is tied on his belt. He is ready to make a bargain with you. He is ready to cheat you with deceitful stones. If you are saying this in your heart, you are listening to the cheater. You are entertaining the deceiver. You are talking to the greatest con artist that ever existed.

Jesus came in the fullness of the flesh. Where you are, he has been. He is uniquely qualified to answer your prayers.

Before Satan can rise in power in your life, he must first reduce the power of Christ in your life. He does this by dealing deceitfully with stones.

He will try to convince you that you do not need everything that the Bible says. He will try to convince you there are things of God and Godliness that you can do without.

Amos 8:5
Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit?

The ephah was a measure of corn. The shekel was a measure of currency. Amos said there were those using a deceitful balance that will make the value of the corn seem small and the value of the money seem great.

Satan will do his best to make the things of the world seem greater than the things of God. He will magnify the temporal and reduce the eternal to the price of bread and a pottage of lentil. Esau came from the field one day and he was hungry. His brother Jacob, whose name meant ‘deceiver’, was cooking a stew of vegetables and red meat. Esau asked Jacob for some of his porridge. Jacob said to him, “Sell me your birthright.” Esau looked at the birthright and the pottage and in a weakened moment, saw the temporal to be greater than the eternal, and sold his inheritance for a bowl of soup.

Satan still works the same way. He will try to convince you that the eternal rewards of God are no more important than your everyday bread.

There are no temporal pleasures that will ever outweigh the sacrifices we make for God.

We are to set our affections on things that are above. We are to get our eyes of the temporary things of this life and lay up treasures in heaven for ourselves. Some Christians seem to constantly struggle with the glitter and the lights of the world. We need to get our eyes off the things of the world and on the things of God. You will never come out of the world until you can set your eyes on the things of god and set your affections to follow your eyes.

He is a merchant.

Merchants are dealers in goods. Let us take a moment and look at the product this merchant is peddling.

He offers pleasures for a season, depression, oppression, discouragement, despair, confusion, death, and hell. There was a grocery chain that used to encourage customers to compare the bottom line. Their argument was that while their competitors might offer you a great price on hamburger, they were raising the price of buns and ketchup. They argued that if you were to compare the full price of the groceries, they would be cheaper. Compare the bottom line. What is the bottom line? The bottom line is the final tally, the final bill, the total price.

How many are willing to trade healing for pain?

How many will trade blessings for want?

Who will trade salvation for oppression?

Who will trade heaven for hell?

I do not know what your temporal stones are. I do not know what you wrestle with. I do not know what the devil is tempting you with. You need to know this, the devil is a merchant, and his product, however fancily labeled, has been the same from the beginning. The same product he offered Adam and Eve in the garden is being offered today. He offers us separation for a holy and loving God. He offers shame and reproach. He offers guilt and confusion. He offers us oppression, depression, and despair.

Satan will take sin and paint it so pretty. It will glitter like gold. He will offer you fame and popularity. He will offer you wealth and great riches. He will offer you anything it takes to get you to walk away from God.

He is a cheater and a conman.

We have an eternal stone. There is nothing Satan has to offer that can outweigh this eternal stone. It is the stone of salvation. It may heal our bodies while we are here. It may bless us while we are here. It may cause of to dance and shout while we worship. However, the real weight of this eternal stone is the bottom line. This stone will go beyond tomorrow. This stone will go beyond this life. This stone will go into eternity.

This eternal stone is a costly stone.

It is not uncommon for people to see something in this life they want, whether it is a newer car and a bigger house, and they begin to make sacrifices to reach that goal. They will cut corners. They will give up things. They will work overtime or second jobs. However, let that shoe be on the spiritual foot, and see if that same spirit of sacrifice prevails. When we begin to talk about gains in the spirit, we hear Christian ask, how much is this going to cost, what will I have to give up, and there are questions of whether it is really worth it. You are standing at the balances of deceit. You are wearing the glasses of the cheater.

The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant that finds a precious stone and sells all the he has to obtain it. These eternal stones will cost you all that you have. If you are not willing to give up all, you will never buy an eternal stone. If you are not willing to pay the price, someone will come with the balances of deceit in their hands and they will sell you a seem-right stone.

A young man met and fell in love with a beautiful young lady. He courted and wooed her. After a period of time, he decided to ask her to marry him. He went to a jeweler and pick out an engagement ring. He carefully chose the ring which he felt adequately expressed his love for her. The jeweler took this token of his love and placed it in a small velvet covered cardboard box.

The young man took his love out to a fine restaurant. At just the right time, he took this small box out of his pocket and presented it to his love. She went crazy for the box. She completely ignored the ring and the expression of his love and became enamored by this small velvet covered cardboard box.

You look at this story and think there must have been something wrong with this young lady’s sense of value. Here is a costly gold and jeweled ring, a token of love, and all she can see is the cheap box it came in.

We have a priceless soul wrapped in a worthless ball of mud. What do we value more?

Are we weighing with deceitful balances?

Are we using deceitful stones?

Long after excuses have faded, long after reasons have crumbled, long after that one deceitful stones has turned to dust; someone will still be worshipping God around the throne.

Do not be cheated by deceitful stones.

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