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Surviving Vanity Fair

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
February 15, 2024 12:00 am

Surviving Vanity Fair

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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February 15, 2024 12:00 am

Listen to the full-length version of this message or the other messages in this series here: https://www.wisdomonline.org/when-the-roll-is-called-up-yonder. At one point in John Bunyan's famous work, "A Pilgrim's Progress," Pilgrim and his friend travel through a town called "Vanity Fair." The town is a lot like yours and mine: materialistic, self-absorbed, pleasure-seeking, and God-rejecting. Temptation was lurking around every corner. In this message, Stephen asks us to consider how well we are surviving the onslaught of temptation that surrounds us every day in our own Vanity Fair. In Bunyan's allegory, Pilgrim's friend didn't make it out alive. Will you?

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I will set no evil thing before my eyes.

There's no loophole around no thing, nothing evil before my eyes. Ladies and gentlemen, if there was ever a time to purposefully nurture naivety, to choose ignorance of sin by refusing the entertainments of the world, it is now. What are you choosing to watch? What are you choosing to read? What are you allowing yourself to listen to?

What are you allowing into those gates? Hear the warning of Paul. Welcome to Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. Stephen is the president of Wisdom International and the pastor of the Shepherd's Church in Cary, North Carolina.

You can learn more about us at wisdomonline.org. For the last several days, we've been working through a series from Romans 16 called, When the Roll is Called Up Yonder. Today, Stephen borrows from the imagery of John Bunyan's famous book, A Pilgrim's Progress. In that work, Christian travels through a self-absorbed, pleasure-seeking town called Vanity Fair.

Stephen called this message, Surviving Vanity Fair. In the classic book by John Bunyan entitled, Pilgrim's Progress, a young pilgrim is journeying toward the Celestial City, which is a picture in this allegory of heaven. And he encounters all sorts of difficulties as he leaves his home called the City of Destruction. And he journeys toward the Celestial City. Vanity Fair in this allegory was a city that represented the world of all who hated God.

And Vanity Fair had one purpose for existence. It offered the travelers that came through anything and everything sinful, all sin imaginable, hoping somehow to entice the pilgrim away from his journey toward heaven. Pilgrim's companion named Faithful is eventually murdered by the citizens of Vanity Fair who are enraged because Faithful brings an indictment on their way of living by his pure and holy testimony. After Faithful is martyred, Pilgrim is allowed to leave and he's accompanied by a new companion named Hopeful. Eventually after many adventures and trials, Pilgrim whose name is changed to Christian after encountering the Gospel of Christ, he arrives at the Celestial City.

There is much truth to the allegory of Bunyan. In fact, you ought to read the book if you haven't, put down the tabloids of the magazines and pick up that particular treasure. The truth is we are all right now in a way truthful, not allegorical, passing through Vanity Fair. The question is, will it detain our progress?

Will it distract our attention? How do you survive Vanity Fair? How do you keep from paying more attention to the false promises of Vanity Fair than the lasting pleasures of God? Well, in Romans 16, the Apostle Paul tells us how.

He has interrupted his final greetings with severe warnings. Paul is deeply concerned about the Christians in Rome not to be deceived by false teachers who offer the trinkets of health and wealth and self-fulfillment, these teachers of a false religion where it is a religion of satisfaction in self and not the Gospel of salvation from self. Beware, he says, these smooth-talking teachers, these Christa lageia, these promissors of a religion of self-satisfaction rather than self-denial. Like the false teachers, by the way, described in Jude, they are clouds that never deliver rain.

They are fruit trees that never produce any nourishing fruit. Watch out for deceiving teachers. Now, secondly, Paul warns the believer to watch out for depraved culture. Notice, let's back up to verse 17 and get a running start again. Now, I urge you, brethren, that is, I beg you, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ, but of their own belly, their own appetite, their own lusts.

By their smooth and flattering speech, they deceive the hearts of the gullible, the unsuspecting. Now, further in verse 19, for the report of your obedience has reached to all. By the way, earlier, Paul commended them in chapter one because their faith was being proclaimed throughout the world. Now he commends them because their obedience is known.

Their obedience, no doubt, in this context, in this paragraph to the faith, to the truth of Christ. And so he writes, therefore, I am rejoicing over you. I am so happy because of your testimony. Like a parent who hears of the testimony of their maturing, growing child, and you rejoice when somebody says something about their godly walk, or maybe you teach a ladies class or a men's Bible study, or you teach teenagers or even younger children, and you are thrilled when you hear the news that they are obedient to their namesake. They are obedient to their walk, their trust and their faith is demonstrated in Christ, and you have that sense of great reward. As John who said, I have no greater joy than to know my children are walking in the truth. Paul writes, I am rejoicing over you because of that, because of your testimony of obedience to Jesus Christ.

But that doesn't keep Paul, by the way, from delivering another warning. He knows these believers are living in Rome, which is vanity fair of vanity fairs. So he goes on in verse 19, and he says, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. Be wise. Sophos gives us our transliterated name, Sophia, be learned.

You could translate it, be skilled, be prepared, be wise. This is the wisdom that James speaks of that is from above. It is first pure and then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering without hypocrisy. And he contrasts it to the wisdom of the world that is earthly, natural, demonic. It produces selfish ambition in your heart and arrogance which lies against the truth.

James three, verses 14 to 17. This word, you can track it through the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament and the New Testament is is a word that speaks of practical mastery over life and conduct. It is truth lived. It is knowledge that is put into practice. Wisdom handles the situations of life with prudence and dignity. As Kittel records, as he studies the word, it knows how to deal with others and how to truly live.

It recognizes the sovereignty of God and seeks to understand the words of wisdom found in the word of God. The truth is a loving, committed, humble, surrendered relationship to God is the starting point of true Sophos wisdom. Solomon wrote, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Proverbs nine, 10. I'm sure you know that verse well. He parents his father, David, who earlier wrote, reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Psalm 111, verse 10. In other words, the wisdom to know what is good begins with God. The outer walk of wisdom begins with an inner relationship with the God of wisdom. God develops a character of wisdom in private, which is then revealed by a conduct of wisdom in public. That's why Paul began his rather practical comments in Chapter 12 by warning us that we're going to be easily squeezed into the mold of worldly wisdom.

But be careful. Don't be squeezed into the mold of the world. Be squeezed into the wisdom of God's word. Because what we do is related to who we are. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Who we are eventually comes out. If we're wise internally, we will be wise externally.

The world is desperately trying to convince themselves that somehow we are separated from what we do. And so you hear things that go something like this. See if this sounds familiar. I know I did something that was bad, but that wasn't me. That wasn't really me. I'm not a bad person. Even though I did something that was sinful, I'm not a sinner. That wasn't the real me. Paul says, be wise, literally wise up.

You could think of it that way. Be skillful, studied, dedicated to that which is good, agathos, that which is clean, right. It's another way of saying practice purity. Practice purity in private and you will practice purity in public. In fact, the more you practice purity in private, the more likely you will practice purity in public.

What we do is, ladies and gentlemen, the real us. The wiser our decisions inwardly, the wiser our decisions will be outwardly. Now Paul adds another phrase, which is fascinating, that will help us survive Vanity Fair with godly passion and focused pursuit of the glory of God. Notice, I want you to be wise in what is good.

Notice this. I want you to be innocent in what is evil. Paul wrote the same idea to the Philippians in chapter two, verse 15, that you may prove yourselves to be innocent, innocent children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life. What a great picture of the believer, by the way, passing through the dark and sinful Vanity Fair, holding the word of truth as a light in the darkness.

How do you live like that? How do you practice purity? Secondly, how do you nurture this naivety? I think you could render it with that idea in mind. He uses a word translated innocent that speaks of something unmixed, clean, wholesome.

You can render it unaffected by evil. And the English word came to my mind as I studied the Greek text. Naive means marked by unaffected simplicity.

It's a negative word to our culture, but it's a positive word in its English history. In fact, Webster defines naivety as listen to this deficient in worldly wisdom. Every Christian ought to be naive than in that sense. Literally, it means to be ignorant of stuff that the world knows a lot about. Surviving Vanity Fair with godly character and defective distinctiveness and the bright light of the gospel of Christ shining forth requires wising up to the good on one hand and inviting ignorance of evil.

On the other hand, being wise and good things and being ignorant of evil things. You refuse to study the way of the world. You refuse to become acclimated to it. You refuse to watch it. You refuse to buy it. You refuse to read it.

You refuse to play it or learn it or copy it or follow it or sing it. When Paul wrote to these believers, they were living in what Seneca, the first century historian called the cesspool of iniquity. Pagan historian called his own city, his own empire, the cesspool of iniquity.

The immorality among the upper classes was nothing short of our own generation. Homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, bestiality were all approved moral behaviors in Paul's day. In fact, when Paul wrote this letter to the Roman Christians, a heterosexual couple who might have lived in that capital city who weren't versed or experienced in some other form of sexual behavior would have been considered prudish and boring. Many of the Roman philosophers of Paul's day mocked monogamy. Add to that the fact that child prostitution proliferated in his generation, most often girls who were abandoned by their parents who didn't want them. This was a day when drug addiction was epidemic.

It was a day when life was cheap. In fact, in the time of Paul, the poorer classes of people had formed labor unions, not for better pay, not for better working conditions, but just so they would have the right to have a proper burial. Animals were more protected and venerated in the days of Paul than humans, much like our own day today where to destroy the egg of an eagle is to violate the law. You can destroy a baby in a mother's womb and be protected by the law. It is no more difficult for us to follow this particular text than it was for the Roman believers.

It was difficult for them to pursue purity and nurture naivety, just like it is today. We do, however, have something particularly dangerous added to our battle with evil that Rome, that Paul could not have imagined. It's a wonderful tool and spreading the gospel and all kinds of wonderful information. But it is an assistant to evil like the world has never seen. We call it the World Wide Web.

In many respects, it is aptly named a Web. I recently read an article written by the Barna Research Group that was headlined Christians believe almost anything they read on the Internet. Barna has written a number of books from an evangelical perspective. Their study released last November seemed to show statistically a heightened gullibility among those who consider themselves Christians.

As embarrassing as it was, a staggering nine out of 10 evangelical Christians who responded to this study admitted to never checking into the source of information they read online. The Department of Internet Fraud reported that millions of dollars were stolen from overseas as a result of one single email scam. Perhaps you received the same email I received, several of them, in fact, where a rich person in another country is urgently in need of foreign bank accounts where he can hide his riches from corrupt leaders. That is legitimately his.

And the victim is promised 10 percent of his wealth for helping house his money in their bank accounts. I remember talking in the office about it because several of us had gotten the email. You would think, well, nobody believed it. Nobody checked it out. Right. Everybody checked it out.

No. In one year alone, this one email scam brought in one hundred and twenty seven point eight million dollars from Americans who bought it. One Chicago based think tank said that it seemed that Christians have a case of alertness to the world, but not to the world wide web. One Web site reported printing a satirical article about manna appearing in Sinai again, which produced a two thousand percent increase in traffic to their site as people began propagating this sign as one of the key end times phenomena this year. What bothers me most, though, is the destruction that is occurring today in the lives of millions of believers caught in the web of Internet pornography, improper chat rooms, voyeurism. The Justice Department last year estimated that nine out of 10 young people between the ages of eight and 16 have been exposed to pornography online, which means that it's going to be more difficult now to nurture naivety even from such a young age. By the way, in an effort to keep up with cable and Internet pornography, the standards of primetime television are rapidly following suit. Now I have read 70 percent of primetime television shows feature sexual content. The number of sexual scenes per hour have nearly doubled in the last 10 years to now more than six scenes in every program.

I just want to be as practical as I can be today. Let's just tell the truth here. We're living in a sexually saturated culture. And there is a connection to seeing and doing observation leads to escalation, which leads to desensitization, which leads to action. These are known facts. What you see and do follows the law of diminishing returns. What you see demands that you see more. What you do demands that you do more next time in order to feel what you felt the first time. Sin is never satisfied with its past.

It always wants more. Imagine the implications in our generation of something Jesus Christ said in his generation. The lamp of your body is your eye. When your eye is clean, your body is full of light. When it is bad or evil, your body is full of darkness. That's why David attempted to nip it in the bud at the very entry point into his life when he made that wonderful and holy commitment, he had to go back to time and time again as you must and as I must. I, he wrote, will set no evil thing before my eyes.

There's no loophole around no thing. I will set no thing, nothing evil before my eyes. Ladies and gentlemen, if there was ever a time to purposefully nurture naivety, to choose ignorance of sin by refusing the entertainments of the world, it is now. What are you choosing to watch? What are you choosing to read? What are you allowing yourself to listen to?

What are you allowing into those gates? Hear the warning of Paul to his generation and to ours regarding the evil potential of our world. You cannot watch a pornography on the Internet or sexually immoral scenes on television or in the theater or bound in the lyrics of songs without choosing to pitch a tent a little closer to Vanity Fair. And before long, the path of godliness that marks those on their way to the celestial city will seem dull and boring and rigid and harsh.

Why bother? Let's settle down. When in Rome, pitch our tents towards Sodom and Gomorrah. What we need today is a resurgence of passionate purity, a choice to go backward toward naivety. The church is in desperate need of men and women, teenagers and college students who will not watch this stuff in moderation. There's no such thing.

It is total abstinence or nothing but danger ahead. Oh, that we would beg of God a greater love for that which is good and a greater hatred for that which is evil. Four words. And let me close by giving these words to you came to my mind as I studied the warning of Paul. Pray was the first word. Pray for wisdom. God will never rebuke you for going to him and saying I have acted foolishly, sinfully. I need your wisdom.

I need a fresh deposit. Wisdom that will help me distinguish between good and evil. Wisdom that will cause me to long for that which is heavenly and despise that which is worldly.

We need that kind of wisdom, especially in our culture today. Prepare, prepare, get ready. Tests are coming.

They are already in front of you. This is war. It is nothing less than war. Paul never got over the fact that it was spiritual warfare. There are two misconceptions that I want you to avoid as you prepare today for temptation tomorrow or even today. Avoid the misconception that walking with God will diminish the temptation to sin. That if you can somehow reach some plateau, some standing, that it'll get better. It'll get easier.

It gets worse. If that were true, that temptation would diminish if you walked with God, then Jesus Christ would have never been tempted. He walked with his Father. In fact, he was led by the Spirit of God right into the midst of temptation. The second misconception is that the longer you walk with God, the less likely you will be to be tempted by sin.

Walk with him long enough and the temptations will sort of fall away. If that's true, then why tempt Jesus Christ who lived sinlessly for 30 years in perfect fellowship with his Father. But now after 30 years of growth and development, after 30 years now having marked and fully understanding of who he was, total surrender to the will of his Father, at that point he is tempted. And by the way, when Luke recorded the temptation of Christ, he ended the paragraph after Satan is defeated and he slinks away. He writes, Satan departed him until an opportune time. You would think the text would read, and Satan departed from Christ forever. There is no need trying that again. That went nowhere.

No, he departed from him until another opportunity might arise. You get the picture. Here is Jesus Christ walking with purity and godly perfection and Satan is trailing him, waiting for some possible opportunity to tempt him.

If Satan thought he could trip up the Son of God, how confident do you think he might be that he will trip you up or me up? So pray, prepare, pursue. Run after the right things. Run away from the wrong things. Just run away. When it comes to sexual sin, fornication, Paul never says, try to control it.

See if you can handle the temptation. He says flee fornication. One more word, praise. Paul writes here in verse 20, and I think it was very encouraging in light of this warning, and the God of peace will soon what? Will soon crush Satan under your feet. Satan was crushed at the cross. He is being crushed by every victory over temptation as we glorify God by saying notice in and he will be crushed in the final judgment. He will ultimately and finally be crushed there as he is condemned forever to hell. It's as if Paul says here, praise God for Satan's defeat. I'm sure he thought of the past and the present, but specifically he is thinking of God's ultimate and final supremacy over Satan. In the meantime, as you do battle, as you pursue purity and you nurtured naivety as you choose to be ignorant, you can also praise God for his daily strength for the saints. He writes further, the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you, perhaps in knowing that the believers have failed like American believers and believers on every continent fail.

Paul ended by reminding them and us of the grace of God. Wonderful, unstoppable, immeasurable, available grace. Don't trample on it. Don't take it for granted.

Live a life that demonstrates gratitude because of it. So be warned. This is his warning interrupted, praising his greetings. They're severe. They're strong. They are hard hitting, but they will rescue you and me if we will listen and obey. Let's both commit to God our need for forgiveness and pardon, but commit to his power and his grace for the temptations we will need to run from even today. And as we run, as we are in the process of running, let's praise God that one day finally and ultimately Satan will be crushed under our feet in final and eternal victory. And in the meantime, we praise him for his daily grace. So today let's run from sin and temptation.

Let's commit to God our need for forgiveness and pardon. This is Wisdom for the Heart, the Bible teaching ministry of Stephen Davey. In addition to these daily broadcasts, Stephen has other resources. He has a second daily program called the Wisdom Journey. He's teaching through the entire Bible, all 66 books on that series. That web address is wisdomonline.org. Go there any time for resources designed to help you walk wisely through life. Then join us next time on Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-15 00:37:27 / 2024-02-15 00:46:46 / 9

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