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sermon: Honor Before Love

Following Things Step-by-Step
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 25-Jun-94; Sermon #135; 76 minutes

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In this sermon on spiritual cause and effect, John Ritenbaugh, using the old cliché, "You can't put the cart before the horse," reveals that there is a definite cause and effect, "reap what you sow" principle introduced in Genesis 2:16 and radiating throughout the entire contents of the Bible. There is an order into which elements of attitude and conduct will follow. This principle can be seen in the consequences of delayed justice and increased crime, pride preceding a fall, humility preceding honor, and honor preceding love (in both human and God-plane contexts). Agape love will not occur unless we first learn to honor, esteem, and cherish God and the preciousness of Christ's sacrifice for us.




We are all familiar with the cliché that you cannot get the cart before the horse. We know that this is a truism and we know that there is very much in life that must be done in a certain order. Many times, cooking and baking recipes would not get the desired results unless a certain step-by-step progression is followed. If you do not follow the progression, the result that you want does not come out and so you have to follow the directions exactly if you want to get the desired result.

How many of you have ever gotten a product and then on the outside of the product, either there or in the papers that come within the box, there is that ubiquitous “some assembly required” and we have found, much to our chagrin, that when we did not follow the directions (directions that we probably did not fully understand), we got ourselves into a time-consuming and nerve-wracking mess, so much so that we wished we may be had never begun. We assemble and disassemble until we finally get it right and we found out the directions were right, we did have to do it that way.

I know that when I am repairing an appliance or something for the very first time, I try to put everything that I take out of the device in order on the table, on a piece of cardboard, on a piece of paper, or something, so that when it comes time to reassemble it I put it back together in exactly the reverse order from which I took it apart.

What I am talking about here, this “we can’t get the cart before the horse,” is part, an aspect of a much larger and exceedingly more important cause-and-effect principle and this principle as it work in all of God’s creation. Because the creation operates according to law and the laws are absolute and unbending, the effect should be predictable. And the effect will be unless someone or something intervenes as absolute as the law that set it into motion to begin the process. Thus you have the cart before the horse principle.

If the assembly is caused to go in a certain direction, the desired direction, then the desired effect will be a rightly assembled product. This same principle is operating in far more serious aspects of life and it is this subject that the Bible largely concerns itself with. That is in regard to spirituality, morality, ethics, and attitudes, those things which impact upon our relationship with God, spouse, and neighbor. Those things follow the “cart after the horse,” in other words, they follow a certain progression.

Understanding this principle is so important to relationships that God put it in the very beginning of the Bible. We do not even get past the second chapter before God introduces this principle. That is how important it is. It is a part of the earliest foundations of God’s instruction to His people.

Genesis 2:16-17 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

There it is. Cause-and-effect. Sin is the cause of death. Just as surely as sin is an absolute, if one sins, death will be the absolute effect. Do you believe that? It is so important that God put it in the second chapter, and it is one of the first instructions that God gives to mankind.

Let us expand on this, just a little bit. Because encompassed within an understanding of this principle here of Genesis 2 it also shows why civilization is the way that it is today. We cannot blame the way civilization is on Adam and Eve, we cannot blame all the filth out there, we cannot blame war on them, we cannot blame disease on them, we cannot blame all the things that go wrong in relationships on them and the reason is expressed to us in Romans 5.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—

Their fault was they introduced sin, but did we have to do what they did? Nowhere is it written that we had to do what they did, but like them, we did do as they did, we sinned.

Romans 5:13-14 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

Our sins were not exactly the same as Adam’s and Eve’s, but because that principle is at work—cause-and-effect—when we sin, we reap the effect. Just as surely as the horse comes first that is in this case in the typology, sin comes first, and it is absolute that death is going to follow right behind it, just the way a cart follows the horse. We are just as much to blame as Adam and Eve.

How can this be changed is man’s challenge. That is what God has challenged us with. How can this be changed? Mankind, seeing the effect in civilization, may not blame it on sin, they may blame it on crime, they may blame it on other processes, but they do see that there is something wrong. They may even go so far as to see that there is something wrong with human nature, but they never put the blame in the right place and the reason is because they do not understand really where to put the blame.

Mankind almost invariably reacts by trying to make changes by altering the environment. So what do governments do? They throw money at projects that are designed to socially engineer people so that the effect will be different. They think that the way to cure this is, let us say, clean up the ghetto or they do job training, throw oodles of money that way. They go into programs like integration, integrate the schools, bus children all over the place, because that is the solution that they come up because they are going to engineer, they are going to change people by changing the environment. Newer schools, that is supposed to produce good things too. They have a depressed area, they say we need better education, and better education comes by building a new building. You do not produce social change that way, but that is the way mankind does things.

Let me ask you something. Did being in the Garden of Eden, which must have been the most beautiful environment anybody ever in the history of the world ever lived in, stop Adam and Eve from sinning? It is not the environment’s problem; the problem is in man’s spirit. Change has to be produced from the inside out and if change is produced on the inside, you are getting the horse before the cart, which is the right way, then the environment will change in the right way, because the people who are changed on the inside will change it. The environment is merely a reflection of what is coming up from the inside of people.

The problem is in the spirit and none of these projects that men are going into by changing the environment will work because that is getting the cart before the horse. There is not the correct progression to produce the right kind of changes. Change must begin on the inside of the individual or all exterior change is merely cosmetic and the environment will soon revert back to the way it was.

The real change can only come about as a result of a relationship with God from whom mankind is cut off. Mankind is in a pickle that he cannot get out of. If the change takes place inside the people, then the environment changes correctly.

The same principle is at work in regard to witnessing. A true witness can only be made beginning from the inside of the ones witnessing, whether it is on an individual or a personal basis, or in a large-scale evangelistic campaign over radio and television. If the people who are doing the witnessing are right, it will produce the right effect. What is God doing? He is preparing people to be in His Family who are going to make the witness to the world. Things will really change then because they will be changed.

Let us expand on this a little bit more. In an area that is bit more subtle, let us go to:

Ecclesiastes 8:10-13 Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity. Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.

In the world of electrical, chemical, and mechanical things, cause and effect is usually very easily seen because the effect of a cause generally occurs very quickly. Results happen fast. If you make a mistake when you are dealing with electricity and you allow yourself to become the ground for an electrical current, you know in a hurry when the current goes to the ground through you, you get the jolt. You know right away you made a mistake.

There is a problem, because God has mercifully arranged His spiritual and moral laws in such a way that they proceed toward their effect at a much slower manner which allows time for changes to take place within us as we learn to use them. If death resulted immediately from sin, God’s whole purpose would have ended in the Garden of Eden. That is all she wrote. As soon as Eve touched the fruit and picked whatever it was off the tree, that was it, but that is not the way moral and spiritual law works.

Like I said, God has arranged it so that the effect takes place much more slowly than it does in the area of electrical, mechanical, and chemical things. But the same merciful slowness God built into these laws also allows the sinner to ignore sin’s effect and allows him to continue on his deluded path right into destruction. That is what these verses are about in Ecclesiastes 8.

We are being warned by Solomon about this principle. That is, the principle of cause and effect is working regardless of whether the effect takes place quickly or slowly. It is there and it is working and the effect will follow. Not necessary right on the heels of the sin, but it will nonetheless follow. People misunderstand delay in judgment and that is what Solomon is talking about here: when God delays judgment. The effect of this misunderstanding is what Solomon is talking about here. People allow their misunderstanding to think somehow or another that God does not care, that God has gone way off, that somehow or another they have gotten away with sin.

This principle is at work in the end time and II Peter 3 is about the time of the end.

II Peter 3:3-4 Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days [we have isolated the time that is being talked about here], walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”

God has not intervened, God is sleeping, God has disappeared, God has gone way off somewhere. That is what people say. People who do not understand fully, but yet still believe in God, it is very easy for them to become cynical in the kind of situation in which we now live because we can look at government, we can look at the people in government, we can look at the people in business and we can begin to think, “These people are wealthy, they have power, they dress in nice clothing, they have big houses, they drive in nice brand new cars” and we know that they are crooks and they are getting away with it! God does not care!

That is exactly what Solomon is talking there in Ecclesiastes 8. Why does not God do something? So then what is the next step when one questions cause and effect? What is the next thought of people who do not understand the delay that is built within the laws of God concerning spirituality, morality, and ethics? Well, they are getting away with it, why cannot I get away with it too? They do not seem to be being punished for being evil. They seem to be blessed. “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore, the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Solomon knew a thing or two. He had watched this process at work.

Let us make a bit of a comparison. In the news within the last couple of months has been the caning of Michael Fay over in Singapore. A lot of media attention in the United States was focused upon Singapore and the quick justice and seemingly harsh justice that there is over there in that city. There was a great lament that went up in many newspapers in the United States about this harsh treatment of this teenager who egged so many cars, sprayed so many automobiles, and committed other acts of vandalism when they gave him a sentence of six lashes and then reduced it down to four.

What do you see in the United States? If that had taken place in the United States, I can guarantee you, with a little bit of money to hire a decent lawyer, Michael Fay would have gotten off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, but I am also sure that even it had come to trial, the lawyer would have been able to delay the case possibly to even a year and year and a half or more.

What would you have thought that would have done to Michael Fay’s mind and what does it do to others who are of a criminal bent? Let us compare something here to show what the two systems of justice produce. Singapore is the same size as Los Angeles.

This is from the Manchester New Hampshire Union Leader, an article written by Cal Thomas. He says,

We might not like some of the elements of Singapore’s judicial system, the absence of trial by jury, for example, but if creating safe streets where law-abiding citizens and their families can walk unmolested is considered a worthy goal, then Singapore can teach the United States a few things. The Los Angeles Times story notes the absence of graffiti in Singapore, the general feeling of safety, the subway is clean, muggings are rare, gang warfare has been eliminated. Last year, 58 murders, 80 rapes, 1008 robberies and 3162 car thefts have occurred in Singapore. During the same period in Los Angeles, with about the same population as Singapore, there were 1,100 homicides, that is 19 times higher than Singapore; 1,855 rapes, that is 23 times than Singapore; there were 39,227 robberies, that is 39 times higher than Singapore; and 65,541 stolen cars, that is 21 times higher than Singapore. (emphasis added)

Last year, guns were involved in only three robberies in Singapore. There have been no kidnappings for the past three years. Crime figures overall have barely changed since 1989. There is virtually no poverty in Singapore. Families stay together and children live at home until marriage. Young people do not loiter on the streets wanting to sell drugs. Public shame and tough laws deter criminal activity. If we treated life and property as valuable and as worthy of preserving as Singapore does, we too would have fewer incidence of criminal activity, but we have allowed the sociologists, psychologists, and psychiatrists to explain and excuse, so the punishment rarely fits the crime.

“Because sentence against the evil work is not executed speedily, the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil,” because people misunderstand delay in punishment. They think of it being God’s approval, they think that God has simply gone off somewhere and forgotten. What is the effect of delayed punishment? It is an inclination to greater and more crimes. The lag time between sin and punishment, between cause and effect is the reason crime tends to grow because it allows people into a false sense of security. If evil, like fire, scorched us immediately, we would probably take care, but when the effect is hidden by time and then combined with a lack of faith, we allow ourselves to be deceived. Brethren, if there is anybody on earth who should not be deceived, it is us.

A quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a poem, actually just a couple of lines from a poem a 100 years ago and I want you to think of grain being ground in a mill, big stone mills, stones grinding corn, wheat, something like that, but think it in terms of God judging,

“Though the mills of God grind slowly,

Yet they grind exceeding small;

Though with patience He stands waiting,

With exactness grinds He all.”

Longfellow understood, at least he believed intellectually, that God does bring things to its conclusion and that we should not be misled, we should not be deceived. The laws of God work inexorably, and they are going to exact their penalty. It is a matter of time.

The answer to God’s seeming indifference is to trust Him and understand that He is not indifferent! His laws will exact precisely what He says, “sin will exact death.” We are going to see this principle in an even more subtle area.

Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

Here we are dealing with an attitude, but it is an attitude that very seriously affects a person’s behavior. So effective is it in affecting behavior that it has been called by many theologians as being the father of all sin. I can remember when I was younger, though I could quote this verse from memory, I certainly did not have very much of an idea of what it meant. My concept was limited to making into a living character personifying pride and destruction or a fall as though they were walking single file in lockstep with “pride” out in front. When “pride” did something then the “fall” reacted, when “pride” fell, then “fall” would fall too. In other words, they were doing things one right after the other.

That was correct as far as it went, but it was a very elementary understanding and I know that it was quite some time since my conversion that I understood why the two are linked. Pride is the ultimate sin against God. Because it is, it cannot do anything but lead a person to destruction. That is all that it can do. Any attitude or quality or character that is against God is ultimately either going to be changed or it is going to lose. Why do I say lose? I say lose because Romans 8:7 says that the carnal mind is enmity against God for it is not subject to the law of God. Enmity suggests antagonism and warfare. The carnal mind is at war against God.

We do not like to think of it that way, but it is at war against God, it is fighting against God, and pride is the ultimate of human nature. It is that upon which human nature seems to be founded. Because it is against God, God never loses, and a person who exalts himself against God is going to lose. They are going to fall, they are going to go to destruction. Pride does not have eternal longevity. I put that eternal in there so that you understand because a person with pride can live 80, 90 years and that seems to us humanly as a long time. But what is it compared to eternity? It is nothing, it is a breath, it is a vapor, it is a mist. So pride does not have eternal longevity because it prevents one from growing into the image of God.

One of pride’s major effects is to reject knowledge, especially knowledge about God and God’s knowledge because it is against God. When a person is sure that they know everything there is to be known, he is not in a frame of mind to learn from God. And a person who is blind to his own defects has no chance to correct them and there is the problem. Pride rejects the knowledge of God on the assumption that it already knows. Therefore, change is impossible. What does God require before God’s image can be produced in us? He requires the opposite of pride, He requires humility. Humility God can work with, pride He cannot.

A humble person will admit the knowledge of God and will not fight against it. Pride rejects the knowledge of God assuming that it already knows, it is at war with God. So strong is pride’s effect that it says,

Proverbs 26:12 Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

The arrogant person is sure that he already knows.

There is an interesting story about Benjamin Franklin that he told about himself, which is kind of interesting. If you know anything about Benjamin Franklin or have ever read his autobiography, you might understand that when he was quite young, somehow or another there was the desire in him to learn all that he could to make himself wise and so he studied and analyzed things and consciously made efforts put these things to work in his life.

(Incidentally, Franklin’s autobiography was something that Mr. Armstrong very frequently referred to as at least containing elements of the kind of mind or approach that a converted person ought to have toward the knowledge of God. Because he consciously set himself to become wise as a man is wise. Not a godly wisdom, but he did come up with great deal of common sense.)

One of the principles that Benjamin Franklin followed was to try to get himself in the presence of men that he admired to see if he could learn from them. That is a godly principle—to associate yourself with the wise. When he was quite young yet, he somehow managed to get in contact and visit Cotton Mather. Cotton Mather’s name may not mean anything to you, but at the time, just before the Revolutionary War, Cotton Mather was probably the most famous preacher in America.

Benjamin Franklin was visiting Cotton Mather in his house. You know how it is when you are visiting somebody in their house, it is a custom to show the person around the house, and as you are going through the house, you are talking with one another and when you are talking, it is very likely that from time to time your faces are going to be turned toward each other while you are walking along from one room to another. They were walking along and they were talking, in fact, Benjamin Franklin was doing the talking, and as they were going along, Mather said to him, “stoop, stoop.” Franklin admitted that he was concentrated, so concerned about what he was saying, he did not hear what Mather said correctly until his head ran into the beam that Mather was telling him to duck under.

It illustrates a cause-and-effect principle. Franklin was so concerned about himself and what he was saying, he did not listen to the advice of a person to duck and he immediately, in this case, paid the price.

A fool may stumble upon a bit of wisdom in his wandering, but the proud, God said, is so vain, he is sure that he already knows and thus he is undeterred by facts and feels a self-sufficiency in his own opinions. But this has an effect that is not very nice, it is not something that we like to deal with.

Pride also produces instability because people of this attitude tend to push themselves into the chief seats and because others of the same attitude are pushing for the same seats, they collide with one another producing strife.

Proverbs 13:10 By pride comes nothing but strife [contention], but with the well-advised is wisdom.

We have a very interesting progression here. Pride then produces a progression that is clearly illustrated in a couple of places. I am going to show you this so that you will see the progression very clearly and if pride exists, I guarantee you it is going to produce this progression, cause-effect.

Ezekiel 28:17 [speaking of Lucifer] “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty.”

All of us understand that pride was what produced Lucifer’s fall so that he became Satan. This is where it began, the progression was begun. The cause began with pride. That was the cause.

Isaiah 14:12-15 “How you are fallen from heaven [There is an end. What does pride do? It produces a fall.], O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt [there it is] my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit.”

Pride did what? It produced contention between Lucifer and God. The result of that was Satan fell. Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall from heaven as lightening.” Pride, contention, destruction through a fall.

Let us go back to Numbers 16. Here we have the rebellion against Moses and Aaron led by Korah, so we identified the participants in verse 1.

Numbers 16:2-5 They rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel. They gathered together against Moses and Aaron and they said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?” So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His and who is holy and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses, He will cause to come near to Him [and then he gives them directions as to what to do].”

These men exalted themselves before God and Moses through their desire for the priesthood in addition to the responsibilities that they already had. He claimed that he was just as good as Moses and Aaron. That is what Lucifer said, “I am going to go up and take God’s place, I am going to be God.” He was saying I am equal with God. Korah is following the same path, only this time, the participant is Korah, his buddies, Moses, and Aaron. He says, “I am just as good as you are.” That was not the issue and Moses saw it immediately. The issue was God’s choice in the appointment of Moses and Aaron and Aaron’s family to that responsibility, but Korah’s pride brought him into contention with Moses and thus he forced God’s hand and what happened? God opened up the earth and Korah and 250 others fell into it to their destruction.

Do you see where those proverbs came from? Pride produces contention which in turn produces a fall to destruction. It is a progression that cannot be avoided if pride is exercised, except through repentance. That is the only thing that has an opportunity to change, to alter the course of the progression that is heading in that direction.

The illustrations thus far have been primarily negative, but the laws of progression work just as well positively. Pride’s opposite hand is humility and so we find back in the New Testament in James 4.

James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Humility elevates, pride destroys and causes a person to fall to their destruction.

I Peter 5:6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.

Humility leads to exaltation. The progression that I am speaking about works in both directions. There is an order into which elements of attitude and conduct will follow and that is what the Bible is primarily about. We have to understand this if we are going to produce the right results. Please do not allow yourself to be deceived because it appears either in society or some other person’s life that somehow or another sin has been rewarded because the punishment did not come. It will come.

You can bank on it. If you were betting, you will bet on it because God’s Word never fails. The progression will come out. The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind absolutely sure and they exact everything. God has not gone to sleep in governing His creation and we are unaware many times what it is if He is working out, but He is aware of what is going on. Do not allow yourself to become deceived because these things will come to pass.

There is another positive progression that I discovered recently while reading the Gift of Honor by Gary Smalley and John Trent. Everything that I am going to tell you was not in their book, but the basic premise was and that is what motivated this sermon.

I Peter 3:7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

With understanding. To understand this progression requires thoughtful consideration of the Word of God, it requires thoughtful consideration of the purpose of God, the plan of God. It requires thoughtful consideration of marriage, of God’s purpose in marriage. This is a familiar scripture, but it is also one that I think that we may carelessly take for granted and possibly because we do not understand what the word honor implies.

I Peter 2:17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

Verse 17 broadens the implication of whatever honor means to include everybody. All of us are familiar with the fifth commandment which says “honor your father and mother that your days may be long upon the land which the lord your God gives you.” Why is it so essential that we honor, especially our spouse? Because what is good for the goose is good for the gander as well and you wives need to take I Peter 3:17 into consideration even though it is directed primarily at men. Because if we are to give honor to everybody, there certainly ought to be special honor given to a spouse. I will give you the answer in one sentence: Because honor must precede agape love.

One of the reasons that we have such difficulty loving is because we do not honor the ones who should be the object of our love and if the progression is not gotten correctly, it is going to be extremely difficult, maybe impossible to love in certain difficult cases. The most common breakdown is right in the family, in our relationships with our spouse and our relationship with our children and our children to us. It is so important that we learn this principle that God made it one of the Big Ten. In fact, the one right in the middle around which all the other commandments seemingly revolve. Is this ever important! I kid you not.

There are four basic words, every one of them from the same root. They are translated into a variety of English words, but since they all have the same root, they all basically mean the same thing. They are pronounced, tim-ah-o, ti-mee, tim-e-os, and tim-i-o-tees. I am going to show you a group of scriptures before I tell you what these words mean. You will begin to see what the word honor means as you see the variety of words that they are translated into.

Matthew 15:4-8 “For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”—then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.’”

All the same word tim-ah-o is translated as honor.

Matthew 27:9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price [ti-mee] of him that was valued [tim-ah-o], whom they of the children of Israel did value.

Matthew 15 is translated honor, Matthew 27, it is translated price, exactly the same word. Let us look at another one.

I Corinthians 6:20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

John 4:44 For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor [ti-mee] in his own country.

We have ti-mee translated as honor and it is also translated value. Tim-i-o-tees, we would just look at one here, back in Revelations 18, the word is translated in chapter 18 and somewhere here I wrote down the wrong verse, costliness. Tim-e-os,

Acts 20:24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear [tim-e-os] to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

I Peter 1:19 but with the precious [tim-e-os] blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

The same word that is translated honor or priced or value or costliness, or precious or dear, its antonyms are to despise, to treat contemptuously, to care little for, regard lightly, to count as nothing. These four words appear many more times and are variously translated as esteem, honor, reverence, and in the sense of compensation, reward, remuneration. All of these words have one thing in common and they imply that one has fixed a value upon something that motivates high regard.

When someone does something noteworthy for society’s benefit, other people’s esteem for them rises and they become heroes in our eyes and society might even be moved to honor them publicly by giving them even more recognition or reward or both, and thus we honor our soldiers with medals. Why? Because we have placed a value on them because of what they have done and so we esteem them highly. We give people the key to the city, we name streets, parks, cities, states, and even nations after them. When an employee does well, his value is shown by his being honored by the employer through a raise and more responsibility. Personal things that we value highly, what do we do with them, we maintain them in as good condition as we possibly can.

A young man so values his car, he polishes it, cleans it, sweeps it up, takes care of it, maybe even he is concerned that it gets any dust on it. He does not want anybody to scratch it, he might park all the way at the end of the parking lot so somebody’s door does not put a dent in his door when they carelessly open. Why does he do this? He is motivated to do things to protect that which he values highly. We do this in regard to our home, our lawn, whatever it is that we value highly as with jewels, with money, we store them safely out of sight and out of the reach of others who might price them for the wrong reasons.

Children are notorious for not valuing things very highly. They will leave toys out overnight so that they might be stolen or out in the rain so that they can become rusty. Why did they do that? They do not regard these things as being worth anything. They are not honoring it. They have not placed a value on that. They will forget where they left even very valuable things. They leave things strewn all over the house not valuing the person who has to follow in their wake cleaning up their mess. And so mom gets all sore because the kids would not pick up after themselves. Because they do not value mom highly, they do not care.

Are you beginning to get that point of that word honor? There is absolutely no doubt that highly valued things motivate us to certain attitudes and conduct. We just saw one that God says He wants us to value perhaps above all things. He shed the precious blood of the Lamb, of His Son. He wants us to value the Kingdom of God. It is the number one priority in our lives.

Nothing is higher and I will tell you right now to the extent that you value the vision that God has given you of the Kingdom of God, in combination with the blood of Christ, is going to determine what you do with your life and if you despise them, you are going to treat them contemptuously. You are going to sin without regard as to what it is going to do. But if you value the Kingdom of God and you value the blood of Jesus Christ, you are going to do everything in your power to make sure that you do not bring anything but honor upon God.

Just in case you did not understand I Peter 3:7, men I will make it clear, God says we are to place value on our wife that is the same as if she was one of the vessels of the Temple, a delicate vessel. How would you care for something that came out of the Holy of Holies? You would handle it with the utmost of care to make sure that that thing was not dropped, that maybe even your dirty hands did not even touch it lest it should desecrate that which is holy. Do you regard your wife that way? I will tell you, it going to change the way you treat her if you do and if we do not get the progression right, we are in trouble. Honor precedes love—agape love.

There is a problem in all of this that affects relationships and character and that is that the value that we place on a thing—whether it is a living thing, another human being, or even an object that is inanimate—they are not constant. The value that we place on some things should not be placed on that and sometimes the value that we place on things that should be valued highly, we do not place the right value on it. Sometimes the things we value most easily comes by nature rather than by right.

Because of this, the things that we value highly as a child gradually lose their value as we age, but as we age, other things replace the things of childhood value and they are infinitely more valuable than the things of childhood and that is why Paul said that when he became a man, he put away childish things, and as we age we are more and more required by God to consciously place values on all sorts of things.

God requires that we place values on almost everything in life because character is pretty much going to be determined by the value that we place on the things of God.

Malachi 1:6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?” says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’

Do you understand what God said there? If you understand what Malachi 1 is about, people were giving God half-hearted service, half-hearted, lousy sacrifices. God says, “You’re not honoring Me, I don’t mean anything to you. You haven’t placed any right kind of value on Me.” So what did they do, they treated Him contemptuously. They called His table contemptible. God is honored when His children place such a high value on Him and on His Son and on the Kingdom of God, on the forgiveness of sin, and the keeping of the commandments because it is going to determine what they do with their lives.

If a thing is of no value at all to us, we trash it. If it is valuable, we do everything we can to preserve it. We are talking about a relationship here that is the most valuable thing we have in our life.

Matthew 13:45-46 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

The pearl is you.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

That is how valuable you are to Him. He has not gone way off.

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Whatever it takes. As He placed a high value on you, you have the greatest value of anything in His eyes.

Malachi 3:16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “on the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”

Meditate in the Bible also can be translated honored, esteemed.

Here is a quote from the Gift of Honor, page 16: “Honor is the decision we make to place high value, worth, and importance on another person by viewing him or her as a priceless gift and granting him or her a position in our lives worthy of great respect and love involves putting that decision into action. Honor precedes love.”

Setting a value precedes love. It has to be that way because many people are not lovable. People who formerly placed high value on each other divorced because honor diminishes and the people do not mean as much as they did before. We begin to trash one another and so the love disappears until what we formerly honored may become an outright enemy. Yet we must love them. God is able to love us while we are yet sinners because He has placed a high value upon us. He wants us in His Kingdom. He wants us to spend eternity with Him and all of His other children in the Kingdom of God.

Genuine love is the gift that we give to other. It is not purchased by their actions or contingent upon our emotions at the moment because our emotions might be downright antagonistic. So honor too is a gift we give. It involves the decision that we make before we put love into action. If you do not value a person, we probably will not act in love. The lower the value that we place on a person, the easier it is to justify treating them with disrespect.

We probably heard of people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. This world has taught us much that is wrong regarding what is valuable and what is not, and learning the real value of things so that we might show honor is part of the process of growth. We have to recapture true values. We have to place the right value on the right things. We have to esteem those things very highly if we are going to be motivated to do the right thing.

Spiritually we are very much like children and so at the beginning of our conversion, we do not rightly appreciate the value of what we have been given. But as converted adults, it is our responsibility to make every effort to know the correct values and this is only accomplished by striving to look at everything in life as though we were looking through the eyes of God and thus seeing it from His perspective.

What did God do because He values us so highly? He gave us His most precious gift. “Greater love has no man than to lay his life down for his friends.” There is the comparison and a friend will do that because he values the person that he lays his life down for. We can only do that, we can only reach that if we are looking at things through the eyes of God and recognize that this person is somebody who can be in the Kingdom of God too.

If we will do this, then we will have a much better chance to govern ourselves to make the right choices, to make ourselves to do the act of love God would do if He was in our position. This is the route to real godly character development and then we will be in the image of God.

JWR/kg/drm

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