THE COMFORT OF BABYLON OR THE COMFORT OF GOD
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore 1 tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall put on. " Matthew 6:21-25a
..... "Do not be anxious about your life. "
Why are we anxious in the first place? Because life in this world is very uncertain. There is no way we can be sure,
- that we won't turn up sick tomorrow,
- that there won't be a war before the end of the year,
- that all our loved ones will still be alive this Christmas,
.....nothing is certain in this world.
There are two basic ways you can deal with this uncertainty:
1. You can have enough money so that you can buy your way out of whatever crisis
2. You can have enough faith in God that you know that whatever you're going through,
You can look to mammon ... or you can look to God.
You can serve mammon ... or you can serve God.
What we really have here are two forms of comfort in this uncertain world ... the comfort of Babylon, or
... the comfort of God.
The comfort of Babylon is mammon ... money and the things money can buy ... all the idols of Babylon are made of gold because in Babylon gold is the ultimate reality.
When Moses took too long up on Sinai getting the commandments, the people began to feel insecure. They turned to Aaron for comfort,
"Make us a god we can see. Make us a god to give us comfort. "
(Never mind that the unseen God of Israel had taken them through the Red Sea..... given them manna to eat and water from the rock.)
And Aaron said, "Give me your gold. " And he made a golden calf.
The comfort of Babylon ... the world system ... still run by Satan ... is always linked with gold. i.e. money, numbers, power.
Babylon teaches that if you have enough mammon at your disposal you will be safe,
you will be fulfilled.
The other kind of comfort is the comfort of God. Instead of gold we have this elusive commodity called faith.... faith in God. Faith that God will provide,
When Moses came down from Sinai with the commandments and found the Israelites dancing around the golden calf he was enraged. He burned the golden calf with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it over their drinking water and made the Israelites drink it.
From that point on the people were made to strip themselves of all their gold ornaments as a sign that, if they're going to make it to the promised land, its going to be by faith and not by gold .... by faith in God.
The comfort of God is the way of faith .... clear cut.
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
But If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, 0 men of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be yours as well. " Matthew 6:25-33
Jesus isn't saying that we shouldn't have any money or use any money. We will have money, and spend money, and we will manage money. And how we use that money is very important.
"If you have not been found faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches. "
But as we handle money we have to make sure that we are not serving money .... that we are serving God.... that our hearts are on God.
- We cannot follow Jesus and serve money.
- We cannot follow Jesus and look to money for our comfort.
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon "
What's happening among us, and doubtless among believers in many places, is that the Spirit of God is dealing with us as individuals and as congregations, and saying in effect,
"Make up your mind which master you're going to serve."
The tendency in every one of us is to secretly think, "I really believe I can serve them both." And American Christendom, like ancient Israel, gives us all kinds of encouragement to think that we can serve them both.
But when you try to serve God and mammon at the same time, you always end up serving mammon.
King Solomon began his reign serving only God. As time passed he mixed in more and more mammon ... he tried to serve God and mammon. Solomon ended his days serving mammon ... seeking his comfort in mammon ... he ruined his own life and ruined Israel along with it.
So now things are happening in our circumstances and in our hearts that are bringing us a clear message: You can pursue the comfort of Babylon or the comfort of God, but you cannot
pursue both. We are being forced to choose, and as we choose we need to get two facts clear in our hearts:
1. The comfort of Babylon is a lie.... it is no comfort at all.
2. The comfort of God, weak as it may appear in this world, is the only comfort there is... the
only comfort that works, the only comfort that lasts.
1. The comfort of Babylon is a lie.
I spent some time the other summer with a man who had become a good friend more than thirty years before. Thirty years before, this man had heard a call from God ... sold his house, quit his job ... with the idea that he was going to train for discipleship in another part of the country ...(not that you have to sell your house or quit your job to answer the call from God. But this was his way of making a new start.) Then things didn't seem to work out. He backed away from his decision, took the money and soon built a bigger house. He got back the excellent position he had ... perhaps he even got a raise.
Thirty years passed. The man is now in his late 60's, retired, lives in a beautiful condo on a beautiful lake in Florida in the winter time. He and his wife are in good health ... he has the comfort of Babylon. But, he's finding it to be no comfort at all. Nor will he until he answers the call that's been eating at his soul for thirty years, and plunges in relying only on the comfort of God.
The comfort of Babylon is a lie, and it's doubtful if anyone reading this, even the youngest, will have thirty years to find out that it's a lie.... know it now!
2. What we are being told by the Spirit of the Lord in word and in the present ferment in our lives is that the comfort of God, weak as it may appear in this world, is the only comfort there is.
"I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live, you will live also." John 14;18-19
"I will be your comfort. I will take the place that mammon once held in your life. As you get under the yoke with me and walk with me, you will have the comfort of God in four specific ways."
1. "If you will turn from serving mammon and serve me you will have the
comfort of my light."
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12
The light of life is the light that exposes and uncovers the sin that's been eating at our souls. When the light shines within me, I can't lie to myself any more.
I have to admit, confess the egotism,
And as I confess these things to him I find tremendous relief, tremendous comfort.
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin I John 1:6
2. "If you turn from serving mammon and serve me you will have the comfort of my blood"
If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
And to be cleansed by that blood, washed, made right with the holy God, is unspeakable comfort. Babylon is still busy trying to cure its own sickness, but nothing is working. And the sickness is getting worse because the sickness is guilt before a holy God.... guilt which must be judged ... not rehabilitated ... judged. Either the Lamb's blood takes that judgment or we take it. When the Lamb's blood takes our judgment we find comfort and peace that money can't buy ... that the world cannot give.
3. "If you turn from serving mammon and serve me you will have the comfort of a cross to carry ....a purpose to spend your life for, a purpose to die for."
And he said to all, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. " Luke 9:13
The cross that you carry is the sign that you're not living for yourself anymore, but for God. Now at last, as you carry your cross, as you serve God, as you offer back your life in praise, in thanksgiving, you have the comfort which mammon could never give you even if you controlled all the money in the world.
"I've come to do your will, 0 God, to lay down my life for your sheep, 0 Lord, even as you laid down your life for me."
4. "If you turn from serving mammon and serve me you will have the comfort of my Spirit."
"My Spirit will guide you, empower you, teach you "I will not leave you comfortless. I will come to you. I will pray the Father and he will give you another Comforter to be with you forever. "
to pray, open scriptures to you, show you things to come.
My Spirit will be your best friend on earth. My Spirit will lead you through this life and into the next. My Spirit will raise you from the dead and bring you to the Lamb's throne."
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore 1 tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on.... "
More clearly than ever in our lives, for our good and for the glory of God, we are being forced to choose whom we shall serve ... to whom we look for comfort.
If we choose God, we put our faith not in mammon, but in the Lamb who stands at your side at this moment ... If we put our faith in him and only in him,
- we will have freedom from anxiety,
- we will bear fruit beyond our wildest dreams.