Deep Problems; Shallow Solutions

How do you stop an oil leak?  That depends on where it is leaking from. If it is leaking from the oil pan on your car, you can replace the gasket for about 25 dollars, not including labor. If it is leaking from the rear seal of the engine, you are going to have to pull the engine to solve the problem. If it is leaking from an oil well 5000 ft below the surface of the water, you have a real problem – no easy solution.  One thing that has come to light as result of this unique oil spill is that procedures that work in shallow well leaks, or leaks from oil freighters, do not apply here.  The problem is too deep.

Sometimes we attempt to apply shallow solutions to deep problems and we fail. Problems are not all the same. Some are more difficult to solve. What is your problem?

I.   The Impotence of Shallow Solutions:  Consider a  Biblical example of  those who were blind to their real problem, and as a result made things worse instead of better.

A. Read I Sam. 4:1-11– Samuel had been established as a prophet (3:19-21) and God was ready to make his word known to Israel thru him. This was a good opportunity to turn the nation around. In the subsequent defeat of the army of Israel, the question is voiced, Why is God against us? Why have bad things happened? (v. 3)  (Sometimes it takes bad things happening for some to even consider their spiritual relationship with God.)

B.  There were problems in Israel.  The vision that accompanied the call of Samuel at the end of chapter 3 had exposed the core of it in the sins of Hophni & Phinehas, Eli’s sons. They were profane extortioners.  God would judge them.

1.    But, as this event suggests, the leaders decided that their problems could be solved by simply moving the Ark of the Covenant closer to camp.  (notice the irony of at the end of vs. 4) This was a PR brainstorm that couldn’t fail.  The appearance of ark in camp sent a shock wave that could be heard in the enemy’s camp (v. 5-8).  The ark on the battlefield was a surefire solution.

a.   But the Philistine leaders rose to the occasion and answered Israel’s ploy with a pep speech of their own (v. 9-10). If the battle is won through just positive attitudes and believing in yourself, then the Philistines had as good a chance as Israel.  (“all you have to do is believe in yourself”;  “if you believe you can achieve it”)

b.   But the problem was much deeper than a lack of confidence. Israel lost the battle again and the ark itself was captured.  This could not have been a stronger signal to Israel that the problems that existed were deeper than they thought.

c.   The ark was gone for seven months. The Philistines suffered greatly as a result and they sent it back with some peace offerings (as an apology for taking it). But the people of Beth Shemish ignored God’s specific law and looked into the ark. 50,070 men died as a result. (6:19-7:1), so they ask the people of Kirjath – Jearim to come and take it off their hands.

  • But notice 1 Samuel 7:2-42 So it was that the ark remained in Kirjath Jearim a long time; it was there twenty years. And all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.  3 Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths from among you, and prepare your hearts for the Lord, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.

d.   Samuel’s words directed Israel to the real problem.  Their was sin in the camp that required real repentance.   No magic arks, no easy solutions. The problem was too deep for any shallow solutions.  What are the applications here?

C.   Sometimes even Christians look for easy mechanical solutions to deep spiritual problems.

  • If you can’t get people to come to services, just move the Lord’s supper to the end, so they are “forced to stay”; or do away with the “ intermission” so people “have to come to Bible class or they might miss the supper. If we could make all those unfaithful people faithful with a scheduling decision, the Lord certainly would have told us.
  • Churches that believe if they find just the right dynamic preacher their problems will suddenly go away.
  • Are there any personal work programs that are successful if the persons who organize them are unwilling to do the work?  The problem may not be a matter of knowledge or organization, but a deeper deficiency of the heart – a lack of love for the lost, or commitment to God’s commandments.
  • Parents who have looked for the right congregation, with just the right programs, so their children will grow up to be Christians. Read the right parenting book. Easy solutions.

1.  Could the problem with our disobedience be that we do not love the Lord as much as we claim?  That is a simple, yet extremely deep problem.  Interestingly Jesus said it both ways.

  • John 14:15 – “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” He commanded obedience on the basis of our love for Him.
  • John 14:21– 21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. By implication He also said that if we do not obey Him, the problem is that we do not love Him.

II.   Deep Problems Require Difficult Choices:   Matthew 19:16-22  16 Now behold, one came and said to Him,”Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”  17 So He said to him,  “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’  19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'”  20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”  21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

A.  Seeing the Deeper problem: It might be that he thought this question had a simple, easy answer.  I am convinced that he did not recognize the real problem.  Jesus could, and did, look deeper than he did, and exposed the deficiency.

1.  Jesus begins with a simple commandment to be obedient.  But the young man wants a specific answer – “please make it simple – just tell me what I need to do.”

2.  In an attempt to expose the real problem Jesus recounts the heart of the O.T. Law, the 10 commandments.  Why?  Because this was more important than any other part of the law?  No! –  but because Jesus did not have to go beyond these simple commandments to expose this man’s sin. (I doubt that He would need to go beyond them for us as well). The question that was really under consideration was “are you willing to do it all – to go as deep as the problem.  (“What do I still lack”)

3.  Jesus then moves him to an introspection of his real sin – covetousness. This was a sin of the heart, hidden deep, even from his own view.  There was only one solution for overcoming his obstacle – repentance – turn your heart enough to give it all away.

4.  That how this event impacts us today. It is not a call for us to give away all or our possessions, unless that it what real repentance requires. It the sin is that deep, then the solution is that severe.

5.  One chapter earlier Jesus had said,  “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire.  9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire. Matt 18:8-9

B.  Jesus consistently brought people face to face with their real problem:

1. Woman at the well – “go call your husband”

2. Zaccheus – when Jesus came to his house he brought up the subject of repentance, and Zaccheus made a personal commitment.

3. Nicodemus, a leader who was well equipped with knowledge and religious heritage was confronted with the need for humility and a new relationship with God.

4. Even Peter, Jesus’ right hand man, was forced to face his own arrogance, self-assurance, and vulnerability.   Satan will sift you – If you love me feed my  sheep.

5.  When Jesus wept at the sight of the city of Jerusalem it was because He could see deeper than others. He not only knew the future, but He knew the real problem.  Sin has tragic consequences.   Luke 12:4-5 “And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! (NKJ)

C.  What is the solution to our real problem – Sin? It is not an easy one.

1.   Someone has to die.  James 1:15Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Paul says the wages of sin is death.   This consequence of sin goes beyond our physical death that is coming, but involves a spiritual death, or separation from God for all eternity.

2.   This is the “being dead” that Paul describes of all of us in Eph. 2.  In the face of this sure “death”, God has provided new life.   Eph 2:4-9But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

3.   This grace appeared in the willingness of Jesus, God’s Son, and God Himself, to come to this earth and die for us.

  • Phil 2:8 – And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
  • Heb 2:9-10 – But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
  • Col 1:19-23 – 9 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight — 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

4.  That is “good news” – That is the gospel. But the preaching of the gospel was a call for every sinner to respond the God’s grace through faith.

5.  This faith in Christ demanded obedience to the command to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins.

  • Repentance – because the problem of sin is a heart problem, and the heart must turn back to God (repent). There are no easy ritualistic solutions. Unless you repent you will perish.
  • Baptism – because it is in the obedience in baptism that you contact the blood of Jesus. It is His death that pays the price. You must be buried into His death, that you can rise to newness of life. (Romans 6:1-6)
  • The problem is not too deep for Jesus to solve. “He is able to deliver Me”

Conclusion: Most of our world does not care about the problem of sin. They worry about their bank accounts, the length of their work week, tax deductions, and oil spills. It takes spiritual maturity to care about sin.   And yet we are all involved in it – no one can say, “that’s not my problem”.  Jesus cared more about my sin, than He did about His own life, and He had no sin of His own. Will you obey Him today?