June 29, 2014 by Mitch
Filed under Blog, Sermons, Sermons on Christian Living, Sermons on Church Growth, Sermons on Confession, Sermons on Discipleship, Sermons on Evangelism, Sermons on Faith & Trust, Sermons on Teachings of Jesus
Many professed Christians are going back into the world – even if they remain in the church pew – but God wants His power to penetrate into the most hardened recesses of your heart to be convicted in Christ.
When God, thru Moses, led his people to the Promised Land, he instructed them to drive out all the inhabitants of the land. These people were idol worshipers and God did not want his people mixing with them for fear that the Jews would take on their idol worship and forsake God.
Given a Clean Slate, they could worship and serve the true God as he instructed and remain faithful to Him alone.
King Josiah served God from an early age. One of his first acts in serving God was to tear down the “high places” and destroy the wooden, carved and molded images. He too was creating a Clean Slate for the children of God to begin serving God again without the baggage of the previous evil kings.
The history of the Jewish people reveals that they were repeatedly rejecting God and turning to idols and worship of false gods.
When one is baptized to become a Christian we also are given the opportunity of a Clean Slate.
Psalm 51:7 says “we shall be whiter than snow.” All of our previous sins are forgiven by the grace of God. Yes, we will stumble and fall from time to time, but Christ’s blood continually cleanses us from our sins as we repent of them.
Let us not be like Israel of old. Let’s not turn back to our former lusts of the flesh. Let’s not take up our “idols” and reject God in doing so.
We have a Clean Slate – let’s fill it with good things (Philippians 4:8).
This past week, I started listening to a grammar podcast. I had no idea I would hear something to help me understand Scripture. Someone asked about “illegal” and “unlawful.” Read what was said about the difference.
“Black’s Law Dictionary defines unlawful as not authorized by law, illegal. Illegal is defined as forbidden by law, unlawful. Semantically, there is a slight difference. It seems that something illegal is expressly proscribed by statute, and something unlawful is just not expressly authorized.
“Jaywalking is a good example of an unlawful act. Traffic regulations do not typically say that you cannot walk diagonally through an intersection. So, it is not illegal. Rather, traffic regulations typically provide that you can cross within a crosswalk when the little walky-man appears. Crossing in any other way is unlawful because it is not expressly permitted.
“Selling cocaine is a good example of an illegal act. A federal law specifically provides that you may not do so.”
Many today act as if I’m crazy when I suggest we are looking for permission to act and not just prohibition to keep us from acting. However, this is not just something somebody in a “church of Christ” made up and passed on to everyone else; this is a principle people understand even in American law.
In the New Testament, there are “illegal acts.” That is, acts specifically prohibited; e.g. Romans 13:14 says, “…make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Like the issue of cocaine in our modern law, God specifically forbid this.
However, there are also “unlawful acts.” That is, acts which are not authorized by the New Testament; e.g. Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 both teach us to sing and make the melody in our hearts. Yet, there is no authorization for adding a mechanical instrument. Therefore, the instruments would be unlawful. Like the issue of jaywalking, we cannot find a “thou shalt not;” however, God’s law has told us what kind of music to use as we worship God and teach others. It does not provide for the instrument.
I found one more statement in the podcast extremely interesting:
“Practically, there is no difference for punishment purposes. Both illegal and unlawful acts can get you into trouble.”
II Timothy 3:16-17 explains the Scriptures, in their entirety, provide us with everything we need to serve, honor and glorify God. If we simply stay within their pages, we’ll be complete, competent and ready for every good work. I’m not making this stuff up. We’re not making this stuff up. These are simply principles everyone should understand applied to using the Bible. Let’s make sure we don’t commit anything illegal or unlawful.
There is an old television commercial for E. F. Hutton where when Hutton speaks, everyone stops and listens. The point being, his investment wisdom would make one wealthy. There are always people who have such a great influence on us, we stop and listen to them; people such as parents, teachers, coaches and preachers. We look to them for wisdom and direction to make us better people and able to live better lives. We respect them and, therefore, what they say.
When we seek wisdom and direction in our lives, where do we go? Who better to look to than our creator, the God of heaven? David wrote: “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:9, NASB). But, when we need guidance and even correction, unfortunately, we look to the wise of this world to lead us. James wrote in James 3 that there is a wisdom that is ‘earthly, natural and demonic’ and then there is a wisdom that comes ‘from above.’ David said we are to look for wisdom and guidance from God’s law and His testimonies.
For the past several months we have been reading from the 119th Psalm in our assembly. There are 117 verses in this Psalm expounding on the wisdom and instruction of God’s word and the unsurpassed benefit found in it. The psalmist refers to the word with terms such as; law, testimony, His ways, statutes, righteous judgments, commandments, counselors and precepts. God has given, in His word, everything “pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3, NASB). If you want to know how to be a better husband, wife, child, citizen, friend, employee or employer, look to His word for direction. What is our attitude toward things of great value? The psalmist said of God’s word that they are to be treasured in verse 11. They are to be kept in verse 9. They are to be looked upon in verse 6. We take delight in them according to verse 16. They are something to be longed for in verse 40. They are to be loved in verse 47. What do we derive from such a treasure given to us from God? We learn purity (verse 9), not to sin (verse 11), to tell others (verse 13), diligence (verse 4), revival (verse 25), to know truth (verse 142) and hope for salvation lies in them (verse 166). This is why we have been reading this Psalm to the congregation.
Something I have observed over the years is our quiet attention to prayers during our assemblies. This is a good thing. However, often we do not give the reading of God’s word the same quiet reverence we give our own prayers. Is this the respect for the Scriptures the Psalmist wrote about? We must renew our love for the Word of God and value the words of Jesus. We must have the attitude expressed by Peter when many disciples stopped following Jesus and He asked if the 12 would go away too. Peter said “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68, NASB). Since God’s word contains righteousness as the Psalmist said, why are we not hungering and thirsting after it? Why aren’t we starving for the words of eternal life? Paul told Timothy to “give attention to the public reading of Scripture” (I Timothy 4:13, NASB). Let’s love His word, trust its instruction and delight in the hope it gives us. Let’s read in public and privately. “Where else shall we go?”
In a question and answer session during my recent series on Prayer in Chillicothe, Ohio, someone asked, “How does God answer prayer? If you are seeking guidance on a specific issue, how does He provide that guidance?” Great question. I’d like to share 5 keys for how to deal with this question.
Key #1: Don’t look for a specific step by step plan.
Many of us have this question. I know for me, I had this question when I thought God somehow had some specific step by step plan for my life that I somehow had to figure out or I would botch everything. The reality is, God’s plans do not hinge on you finding that one particular job in that one geographical location while married to that one specific person while acting in one specific way.
Before we go any further, I want to remove from you that feeling that somehow you have to be as smart as God. Let God be God. Neither do you have to work through some mysterious step-by-step process to somehow figure out the hidden plan God has for your life. Here is what you need to understand. The key to the world is not resting on your soldiers. You don’t have to worry that if you decide to move to Peoria instead of Atlanta that God’s plans will come crashing down. God is bigger than that.
Trust me, if God has something only you can do as part of His big plan. He’ll get you there to do it.
But don’t wait to do it until you are caught in the middle of some crossroads. If you want to make wise decisions, you need to have a foundation of Scriptural knowledge and perspective already. I’m often amazed at the number of people who tell me they prayed about some decision but when asked what they learned in Scripture about the decision, they don’t have anything to say. It never occurred to them to go to the Bible.
Don’t forget II Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be equipped for every good work” (ESV). What does this tell us? It points out that if what we are doing aligns with Scripture it is a good work. I understand that Scripture will not say, “Work at the auto plant.” Or “Work for the newspaper.” But it will tell you how you need to live. If you can live that way with the particular job, then you can go for it.
Key #3: Seek wise counsel.
Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (ESV). For some reason we all want this inner voice that will tell us what to do. Why not use the outer voices God has given us to help us. One of the reasons He has organized His people into local churches is to provide good counsel and guidance. Talk to your shepherds. Get their input and feedback. Find some older Christian whose spiritual walk you respect and get their guidance. In the end, you will still have to make the decision, but God hasn’t left you down here to figure everything out on your own. He has given you older and wiser brothers and sisters to help. Use them. Rely on them. Don’t dismiss them when their advice does not coincide with what you naturally want. Consider it and weigh the pros and cons. Just keep in mind what happened when Rehoboam sought wise counsel in I Kings 12:1-17.
As you gain a Scriptural foundation for your life’s choices, you will inevitably read Matthew 6:33. While we could probably list all kinds of principles in this list, I think this one provides a good overall point about knowing God’s guidance for our lives. Whatever choice you are trying to make, strive for rigorous honesty with this question. The issue with career choice must not be merely about money and benefits. The issue of spouse is not merely about looks or income. The issue of college is not just about who has the best football team. The number one principle to govern all decisions is whether or not the choice you are making puts God’s kingdom and righteousness first. Many people have chosen the job that will give them lots of benefits and money and let them retire early but keeps them from really pursuing spiritual work and growth saying it will give them all kinds of time later to do spiritual things. First, they usually never make it to that point of spiritual growth because they develop the bad habit of being nonspiritual. Second, this is not putting God’s kingdom and righteousness first but last.
This principle takes really rigorous honesty. This is another place where the wise counsel of others can help you out.
Key #5: Trust God to be God
If you have prayed, studied, sought wise counsel, determined that your choice is seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness, then make your choice with the faith that God will be God and you do not have to be. Romans 8:28 says God will cause everything to work out for good for those who love God. Even if somehow through this process you have made a boneheaded decision, God can still use that for your good, for the good of His people and for the good of His glory.
When you decided to move to Peoria, quit wondering if Atlanta was the better choice. Simply serve God as best you can in Peoria and He will use you in ways you never dreamed of. Quit pining for where you have been or where you could have gone. Just do your best to serve God where you are and let Him be God. I think I can almost guarantee you if you take that approach after a few years you will look back and see how much good has come from the choice. If on the other hand, you went to Atlanta. Do the same thing. Do your best to serve God there and you will be amazed how He chooses to use you.
I just ask you to take comfort that you do not have to be God. The pillars of the universe are not resting on your every choice. The plans of God are not in danger of being overthrown by your choices. Simply do your best to serve God according to His word in the best way you know how and trust Him to take care of the rest.