It was brought to my attention last week that an evangelical church in Austin was having a very unique Sunday Night Bible Studies. This church was going to meet Sunday evenings, sing some songs and then have an episode of the TV comedy Mayberry. After each episode of Mayberry, they were going to discuss the spiritual implications taught in that episode.

When that church's News Letter was shown to me, I thought it was a joke. I showed it to some others standing around, and their response was something like, This is a joke, of course, isn't it? I'm sorry to report that it was not a joke. The showing of Mayberry is their Sunday Night Bible Study.

People are interested, or they want, or at least they say they want a spiritual life. That's the way it has always been, but it is increasingly becoming more and more evident that people want a form of godliness, but they deny, or turn away from the real power of godliness.

2 Timothy 3:2-5 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
2 Timothy 4:2-4 Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Don't get me wrong, I think Mayberry is a good program. Possibly one of the better ones that has come down the pipe. However, it is not the Bible. It was never designed to teach the Word of God or spiritual doctrine. Any moral lessons learned from those episodes come from human wisdom. It may be the best of moral human wisdom, but none the less, it is still human wisdom.

As we look at the moral condition of our society today, Mayberry might present a form of godliness or morality that we wish for and long for. When our desire for godliness centers on the form rather than reality, we have turned aside from and abrogated the very power of godliness, which is the pure Word of God taught and applied by the Holy Spirit to the life and conduct of a true disciple.

Is there a problem with showing episodes of Mayberry in a church building? No, however, I do see a problem when Mayberry or anything else replaces the systematic teaching of the Word of God. In some churches today, Mayberry might be a moral improvement over the standard service.

You may be asking yourself, "What does this have to do with our study of the Sovereignty of God?" Just in case you weren't thinking that, I made sure I suggested it, so you would. When I was shown the news letter Sunday Night, I said to myself, "Self, that would make a good introduction to the subject of the lesson for next Sunday." Of course, as Sundays have a habit of doing, last Sunday has now become this Sunday, and there is my introduction.


The purpose, will, desire, etc. of a person ultimately dictates that person's actions and attitudes. This is also true of God. If we know what God's ultimate purpose and will are, they give us guide lines in establishing the what and why of God's actions, and will help us not to apply human purpose and will to the actions of God.

This is very important! If we evaluate one of God's actions according to human purpose, will or motive, we will very likely put that action in the wrong pile as we categorize those actions, and therefore evaluate an action of God by the same standard we would evaluate an action of mankind in general.

If the purpose of a church service is to get as many people inside the church building as possible, then it might be tempting to show episodes of Mayberry, instead of teaching sound doctrine. Many people will come to the church to see Mayberry, but the Bible says, and experience bears out its truth, many people will not endure sound doctrine. Therefore, if we want the many, we must sacrifice sound doctrine. Sad but true, many churches are replacing the teaching of sound doctrine with their quest for numbers.

Lest you get up-tight about my judgment of this church and their showing of Mayberry, I want you to know that I don't have the foggiest idea what their motive was for this program, but I know what their motive was not. If that church wants to show the Weather Channel for their Sunday evening services, that's their choice, and I'm not about to try to stop them or condemn them. I may raise an eye brow or so, but condemn them I won't. However, because they are showing Mayberry, it does give me a good illustration to illuminate today's subject. Therefore, I thank them for providing me with such a timely and appropriate illustration. Good current illustrations are hard to come by.

In this lesson, I want to establish, from Scripture, the important role of motive, purpose, heart attitude, etc. in the execution of actions and attitudes. I want to apply that truth to our lives and the program of MBF. I also want to turn our attention to the importance of motive and purpose in properly evaluating God's actions.

These will not be presented as distinct and separate subjects. There will be overlapping in some areas, and will take us to many passages. We will probably only get through part of this presentation in this lesson, but it will establish the foundation for up coming lessons.

Purpose Dictates Actions

Let's first look as some passages that establish, in general, the fact that internal motive controls or at least influences external actions.

Proverbs 23:7 for as he thinks in his heart, so is he. "Eat and drink!" he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

The internal attitude or purpose of the heart is what a person really is. Humans learn early to say and do things so as not to reveal the true nature of their hearts. However, when the right circumstances present themselves, we quickly step out from behind the mask of acceptability and produce actions the same as our motives.

Psalms 55:21 The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, But war was in his heart; His words were softer than oil, Yet they were drawn swords.

Human reason states that a hammer is a tool for the benefit of mankind. However, raise that same tool in anger with the intent of bringing harm to some other human, and the tool becomes a weapon of destruction. You can wrap that hammer in pink poke-a-dotted paper, with a nice bow and ribbon streamers, and put a colorful sign on it stating that it is a tool of peaceful origin. However, if the hammer with its bow, streamers and sign is used to inflict bodily harm, it is lethal weapon. The hammer has not changed. The problem is the motive behind the hammer. Likewise with our words and actions.

Sometimes our words and actions do not depict the evil motives of the heart. None the less, those words are often spoken and those actions performed with the intent, purpose and hope that they will somehow accomplish externally, our internal desire.

The psalmist brings out that truth in this passage. The external words were smoother than butter, but the real essence of those words was war. Even though the words are soft, they are still as lethal as a drawn sword, and will be used in that manner when there is the slightest opportunity. If you reflect a little, you might recognize just such a situation in your own life when you spoke words with the intent of a piercing sword.

Matthew 5:27-28 You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
1 John 3:15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Christ and John both echo the fact that the actions are a reflection of the motive or heart attitude. The words of Christ in Luke 6 leave no question as to the validity of the fact that, "As a person thinks in the heart, so is he".

Luke 6:45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
Isaiah 64:6 But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

It is necessary to establish the motive or will of God, so we will not fall into the trap of evaluating God's actions by the desire or motive of human actions, no matter how pure the intent of those human actions might be. The very best human motive is far below any motive of God. As a matter of fact, our best human motive is often the opposite of God's.

Knowing God's Ways

Isaiah 55:6-11 Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. 8 "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."

We can't take the time to look at this passage in any real depth, and believe me, there is some real depth in this passage. We want to establish, from God's own words, that His thoughts and His ways are not even close to the way humans operate or think. Not only are God's ways and thoughts different, they are higher, infinitely higher than the best of human wisdom.

Therefore, when we look at God's ways and thoughts, we should never use human reason to draw conclusions about God's ways. We can establish God ways and thoughts only from His own word, the Bible, from there and there alone!

Notice in passing, the illustration that God uses in this matter. God uses the water cycle. The rain and snow come down to produce plant life, which in turn produces food for the human. Then the water is cycled to the clouds again and back to the earth to once more produce growth and life. In like manner, God's Word goes forth, produces life, growth and when it returns to Him through us, it has accomplished the purpose for which it was sent. I trust you will follow that theme throughout the Bible and it is all through the Bible.

Romans 11:33-34 Oh, the dept of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 "For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?"
Job 9:10 He does great things past finding out, yes, wonders without number.

Look at that, from Scripture, we see that we cannot find out or know God's ways. Therefore from these passages alone, we might conclude that we may as well watch Mayberry, instead of studying the Bible. Notice one other thing before we move from these passages to compare them with a couple of other passages. God says, in the Isaiah passage, that the ways and thoughts of God are far above anything of human action or reason. One might conclude from that statement alone, without comparing it with all other passages, that there is no way to know God's thoughts, or understand His ways.

Even here in Isaiah, God eludes to the answer and the manner by which we can know His ways and thoughts. In vv. 7-9, God is talking about his lofty ways and thoughts. Then in the opening of v.10, we have the little word for. Putting it in street English it says, "Much like the rain comes and does its job, My Word will do its job of helping you see and understand My ways and My thoughts."

So you don't think I've had a pipe-dream, and am reading into this passage something that is not there, let's compare a couple of other passages. Both are familiar to us here at MBF. A person said a few weeks ago, after we had referred to the Ephesians passage, again, "Every time we go back and read that passage in comparison to some other passage, I get more and more from it!", and it will ever be so!

1 Corinthians 2:9-3:3 But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For "Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ. 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?

Isaiah 55 said that God's thoughts and ways were clear out of the realm of human thoughts and ways. To that, 1 Corinthians 2 agrees by saying that no human perception is able to see, hear or receive the things of God. Even though human perception cannot receive the things of God, the Spirit of God can not only receive the things of God, He knows all that is in the heart and mind of God.

As Believers, we have received the Spirit from God, so that we might know those things through the teaching of the Word of God by comparing spiritual with spiritual. Then in 1 Corinthians 2:16, the question is echoed that has been asked for centuries - "Who has known the mind of the Lord?".

The obvious answer to that is no human has known or can know! But as Believers, we have something (actually Someone, the Holy Spirit) that no mere human has. As a Believer, we also have the mind of Christ. However, the mind of Christ can only be accessed through the spiritual mode. As long as there are envy, strife and division in our lives, we are carnal and cannot access the mind of Christ.

Ephesians 3:8-12 To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9 and to make all people see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.

To carry that theme a little further, let's look at Ephesians 3:8-12. We could take this theme a lot further by comparing many other passages in both the Old and New Testaments. These unsearchable riches of Christ have been made know to the Believer, who is walking in the Spirit and being taught by the Spirit. This fact is seen in 1 Corinthians 2, Ephesians 3 and elsewhere.

But the Holy Spirit takes us one step further, in this revealing process, in the Ephesians passage. Through the church, when that church is operating in a spiritual manner of unity, these hidden things of God will be made known by the church to principalities, and powers in the heavenly places.

I haven't been pointing out all the references to Satan and his kingdom as we compare these many passages. I assume, because one of our sub-topics is Satan's control of a Believer, that you are carefully noting each reference.

Ephesians 6:11-12 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
1 Corinthians 6:2-3 Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?

The Devil and his kingdom of principalities, powers, rulers of darkness, and spiritual host of wickedness will be informed of Christ's great wisdom, marvelous works, unsearchable riches, etc. by the church through spiritual living. I'm sure you've been storing information and categorizing it as we have been studying the subject of whether Satan can or has the right to control some Believers. If not, you are missing some wonderful eternal truths!

In our discovery process, one of the facts we saw was that angels do not know these things, but desire to look into them. Satan is an angel. A fallen angel, but none the less an angel. Therefore, Satan does not know these things, and we, as the Church of Jesus Christ, have the opportunity to teach Satan and his kingdom the things of God by our spiritual living. The Believers will also judge the angels, but that is another related subject for future study.

How are you doing in your teaching of Satan and His kingdom? The answer to that is found in your answer to the next question, How are you doing in your spiritual life?

Folks, there are some wonderful truths we could see along the way in our study, but time prevents such observations, and for some their spiritual perception has been dulled by envy, strife, and divisions, as we saw in 1 Corinthians 3, and cannot see these things even when pointed out to them.

We need to move on to establish the motive or will of God for this span of eternity called time. In that way, we can compare God's motive with His actions. Before we move on, it would be a shame, yes, I believe it would be sin, if we gained this information and did not apply it personally and church wise.

Hebrews 4:11-13 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Most Believers are interested in the academic study of the Bible. Especially after they realize there is order and progression to the plan of God, which can be seen and understood by careful study of the facts and harmonizing those facts with all other Biblical facts.

However through this process, many Believers discover that the Bible is the Living Word of God. These truths discovered from that Living Word penetrate deep into the physical aspect of life, the joint and morrow, and even deeper into their very being, dividing asunder the soul and spirit. Those discovered facts become the critic or umpire of every action and motive of life.

Different Responses to the Truth

When the reality of the Living Word of God is understood, often the eagerness to know more and deeper things of the Word of God turns to rebellion against that very Word. It may not be open rebellion. As a matter of fact, this type of rebellion may demonstrate itself in even more religious effort, as a form of godliness that denies the power of true godliness.

Some time ago, I visiting with a person about some deep burning concerns, as this person stated. Even though these events happened in the life of this person, they reflect what has happened repeatedly throughout my ministry, and I am sure since the beginning of the church and before. Those deep burning concerns, this person brought up, involved people, relationships, church programs, etc.

Some of those concerns were valid. However, I sensed that even the valid concerns were a smoke screen to defuse the real issues. For some time before this event, we had been working personally with this family concerning spiritual growth areas. Spiritual growth, not unlike physical growth, demonstrates itself differently as we grow. You know, we are excited when the baby grows enough to roll over. And there is even greater excitement when our teenager has grown and matured enough not to roll the car!

We had been working with this family on some of the more mature spiritual growth areas. These areas were not things that would be considered evil by most people. These areas involved spiritual growth and actions beyond the maturity of many Christians.

Too often, we see those who are older in the faith than some, and think to ourselves, "My, it must be nice to be at that level of Christian growth, and not know the struggle with sin that I'm experiencing." That is just not so, folks. Taking the next step in Christian living is often more difficult for the mature Christian than the new born Believer. After all, to make spiritual changes in life after you have grown, taught others and are seen by some as a spiritual leader involves a great deal of spiritual pride, and requires a humble, broken and contrite heart.

When a new born gets the upper-hand over some gross sin, it is exclaimed as a victory and they are complimented. However, the more mature Believer must make changes in and overcome those more subtle religious sins, such as: pride, anger, bitterness, spiritual arrogance, etc. When the mature Believer struggles with and/or overcomes such sins, it is often not considered a victory, nor are they very often complemented for their efforts!

Instead, those who held them in high esteem often say such things as:
I never dreamed that you were having spiritual struggles.
I always though that
you had arrived, spiritually.

Often other similar things are expressed. Then instead of considering this overcoming of respectable sins as a victory, those who used to listen intently to this mature counsel, now take the attitude that if this, so called, mature Believer was struggling spiritually in such a manner, they certainly are not qualified to give me spiritual help.

Those who are older in the faith, have seen this process played out over and over again during their years in the church. Often, older Believers are not willing to go through such a humbling process. So they rebel against the teaching of the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit reveals the deeper things of God to them. Therefore, instead of continuing to grow spiritually, they stagnate. A Believer cannot stay in a static state in the Christian life! Believers are either growing in grace and knowledge, or they are sinking deeper and deeper into legalism, license or bitterness. As you well know, the human means of dealing with bitterness in the life, is to blame someone or something else for the turmoil that is eating away at one's own contentment.

These things were true in the life of the one who brought those deep burning concerns to me that day, as so many others have done in the past. I told this person that I would look into those concerns. I also warned this person, as I have some before, that I would deal with the problems fairly and honestly without prejudice for station or status. Therefore, sometimes the results of such an investigation are not always pleasant.

I talked to this person about some upcoming lessons in which I would be teaching on the subject of dealing with sins and decisions that are very difficult. I went on to tell this person that when anyone comes to an impasse in the Christian life, that person will either obey the truth of the Word of God or will rebel against it. If a person rebels against the truth taught, they will often rebel against all that is associated with the presentation of that truth.

When a person is in this state of rebellion, and does not respond to the presentation of spiritual truth, they will often cause problems in the church or leave the church. The reason for this is:

Once a Biblical truth is made clear and allowed into the life, 
that truth continues to divide the joint and morrow and soul and spirit 
and is always umpiring over every thought and action.

Biblical truth in the mind of a rebelling Believer, is a little like a small scrappy dog on my paper route. It was just a small worthless dog, so small he couldn't have bitten me had he wanted to. This little dog would meet me at the sidewalk of his house yipping and yapping and causing all kinds of commotion. This little hound would follow me to the end of the route, continually creating this commotion, and nipping at my bike tire and my heels. I could kick at the dog (and always missed), and with each kick the noise level would increase. Until one day, I tried to hit the dog with a rolled up news paper, and dropped the paper. Naturally, I had to stop and get the paper. As I did the dog jumped up on me and licked me anywhere he could reach. Being the kindhearted young fellow that I was (and still am), I petted the dog, scratched his ears and talked to him for a moment or two. Then I got on my bike, and the dog went to his front porch and laid down, quiet and content. After that, each day that little hound would meet me at the sidewalk to his house yipping, yapping and nipping at my bike tire, until I stopped, petted him, scratched his ears and talked to him for a while. All he wanted was attention and recognition, then he would go back to his porch.

Once the Truth of God is known by a Believer, that Truth in the hands of the Holy Spirit is like the hounds of heaven, nipping at our spiritual heels and just will not go away until we embrace that truth or rebel against it. This brings great spiritual distress. The best way to relieve that distress is to obey the Word. However far too often, Christians try to relieve this spiritual distress by diverting attention through being busybodies, causing contention or they run away from what they think is the source of such distress.

Often they feel that the source of this spiritual distress is the church where the Word is taught. They fail to realize that the stress comes from within, because they are fighting against the working of the Holy Spirit as He administrators the Word of God to their life. When that stress gets great enough, they will turn to the Lord in brokeness and accept forgiveness and empowerment, or they will strike out at about anything within striking distance.

Yes, many Christians are very interested in the academic aspect of the Bible, but some are not so eager to apply it to their living. Christians try to get away or change the subject, when Biblical truths are constantly presented like:

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
2 Corinthians 12:20 For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults;
Ephesians 4:25-28 Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.

If these truths and the applications are constantly presented, and the hearer does not respond both in accepting the facts and applying the truths:

Hebrews 12:14-17 Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

When the actions of spiritual rebellion are present in the conduct of a person, whether outward or covert, or a person does not share the beliefs and goals of the church, that person cannot become part of the active leadership. Nor should they have part in the public program as someone to see and follow as a spiritual role model.

When those in leadership or up-front roles do not adhere to the well defined motive and purpose, the Church plan and program moves off center just a little. When that happens, the motive and emphasis become that of reaching as many as possible by any means available, even if it means diverting from the purpose.

It takes only a small diversion from the purpose of solid systematic Bible study until the program of the church becomes activities, instead of systematic Bible study.

As well motivated as such a diversion might be, it is devastating to the program and goals of the Church, and is not God honoring. Therefore, those who lead as Deacons, Sunday School Teachers, Awana Leaders, Singers, Directors of programs and/or people, etc. must be carefully screened as to motive, purpose and conduct. If not, it will not take long until systematic Bible study will be replaced with the showing of Mayberry, or far worse.

Jude 2-5 Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. 3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. 5 But I want to remind you, though you once knew this, that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe.

In the next lessons, we will see the motive and will of God for this segment of eternity called time. It's important that we know the motive and will of God, not so we can keep the program moving properly toward the goal, but so we will understand that God's program is based on His motive and will, not human motives.

You see, just as surely as a church program will move in the direction of the motive and purpose of those active in its execution, likewise, the program of God will move in accordance with His will and motive.