Friday, January 30, 2009
Listen to audio: http://www.evangelsp.org/audio/01-07/01-28-07-Wholly-Holy.wma
'Change You Can Believe In' begins with a change of our heart.
As we trust Jesus, we desire His Holiness.
Many Christians belief and think biblical truth, but fail to express it in their actions.
I Peter 1:13-21: Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy. Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.
He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
Daniel 11:32 says this. “..but the people that know their God shall be strong, and do [exploits]. They.. ‘ will display strength and take action.’
So, if we can also properly describe ourselves as people who know their God, why aren’t we doing ‘great exploits’? Why haven’t we eradicated abortion from America? Some have even said it’s not possible because this nation is controlled by forces of darkness, yet, we sing “This Is My Father’s World”. Which one is right?
What has led us, as a nation, to still have legalized abortion in America 36 years after the infamous Roe versus Wade decision?
I believe a large part of the answer lies in this one sobering statistic: 18% of all abortions are by born again Christians.
Yes, some of those in the 18% statistic may not be true believers, but still, that is a staggering number considering there are 1.3 million abortions each year, some 47 million since 1973. That means that 234,000 abortions each year are by those who name the name of Christ.
How can we ever expect legalized abortion to end in America if we, the believers in Jesus Christ, are a significant part of the problem?
We may never see legalized abortion ended in our lifetime, but we can do something, as Christians, to challenge the ‘culture of death’.
Is that something..
· Protesting abortion? Yes
· Voting regularly? Yes
· Is it showing abortion vulnerable women and men, graphic images of abortion so that they might see what they are aborting? Yes
· Is that something performing sonograms, so women can see he pre- born child,have compassion for him or her and choose life? Yes
But the greatest ‘something’ we can do is to share Christ with everyone seeking an abortion because salvation is their greatest need.. and that we do at Gateway.
With all those protests, all those graphic images, all those sonograms, pregnancy centers in every state, even the sharing of the gospel one on one with women seeking abortion - why do we still have legalized abortion in America?
I firmly believe that until believers see the need for individual repentance and personal holiness, we may never see a national change.
The Christian pollster, George Barna, states that his research has convinced him that by-and-large:
1. Americans do not understand holiness.
2. Americans do not desire holiness.
3. Americans do not pursue holiness… but,
4. There is a "remnant" who gets it, wants it, and seeks it.
Billy Graham has said that ‘there can be no greater inconsistency than orthodoxy of words and an unorthodoxy of life.’.
In describing apostasy, or the “standing away or abandoning of one’s faith, Dr. Graham has described the subtle apostasy of many born again believers. There are three types:
1) Moral Apostasy – yielding to temptations, getting involved in sexual sin, even refusing to defend the innocent.
2) Pharisaical Apostasy – becoming hard and cold in our Christian life; turning to legalism (don’t dance, don’t get involved in politics) or church-aholism (‘the more I do for the church, the closer I get to Him’; therefore, there’s no need to change inside.
3) Apathetic Apostasy – “As long as I’m in church Sunday morning, I’m okay with God”. Perhaps this is the most insidious because this apostasy centers not on what we do, but on what we fail to do, and that’s to live an exciting, separated, Spirit filled Christian life, that seeks to share our faith, share our wealth and share our spiritual gifts.
In all of these ‘falling aways’ there’s the loss of warmth, a lack of devotion to the Word of God, a lackluster prayer life, a dullness of convictions, the meaningless repetiveness of attending church every Sunday morning without the vibrant worship found in knowing Him deeply and relating to His people intimately.
What’s the solution? The Bible calls it holiness.
What do you think of when someone says ‘Holy”?
a. The Holy Bible
b. Someone with a ‘halo’ on his head
Some see ‘holiness’ as unattainable and would dismiss our key verse “Be ye Holy as I am Holy’ as unachievable, so, therefore impractical.
So, what is ‘biblical holiness’?
Holiness is the ‘life long pursuit of being separated from sin and set apart for God’
We need to be challenged to live holy, to go further in our Christian walk and deeper in our commitment to Christ, while at the same time realizing that it’s normal and healthy for us to struggle as we walk in this world.
True victory is realizing the ultimate battle with sin has already been won by Christ. You and I need not be defeated Christians.
Do you feel defeated in your Christian life? Do you struggle in your Christian life? There’s a difference between defeat and struggle.
There’s also that awful middle ground of malaise. You neither sense defeat nor do you sense struggle. Your Christian life is just on ‘auto pilot’.
Your not against attending prayer meeting – you simply don’t see the need to attend yourself. You’re not against missions – you simply can’t see why you should get involved. Many arrive to church late, leave early, rarely participate.. and don’t see anything wrong with any of it.
If there’s an absence of struggle in your life, if there’s an absence of challenge, if you don’t ever see in yourself the reality of Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else, and desperately sick (or wicked). Who can understand it?”, there may be an absence of biblical holiness in your life.
Theologian Francis Schaeffer has called ‘True Spirituality’ or holiness, something that is attainable in this life and something ‘Christ has purchased’ for us.
In I Peter 1, the Apostle Peter is discussing true biblical holiness. Peter seeks to strengthen those Christians undergoing persecution so that they may persevere and live holy lives, like the Savior who purchased them from sin.
This passage helps us to:
1) know how to think
2) know how to act
3) know why we should be holy
Holiness involves believing, being and doing
It has as much to do with our actions as it does our thoughts and beliefs.
Many Christians belief and think biblical truth, but fail to express it in their actions. This is a key part of the holiness that the Apostle Peter is speaking of in this passage.
Peter writes to the believers in I Peter 1,
That they may obey Jesus Christ (verse 2) “who, according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope” (why?
Because Jesus Christ is alive!
And because He’s coming back) Because v. 3 He “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”. This should be exciting to your soul. Is it?
Verse 4 – if you have trusted Christ you have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you.
Verse 5 – you’re “protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”
Oh, it’s true for a while, here on earth, we have temptations, trials, distresses, crabby bosses, cars that break down, people that let us down – but this is all to prove our faith which is called “precious” by Peter.
We’ll see in verse 19 that our faith is precious because it’s been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
verse 8 – we haven’t seen Him, yet we love Him! We believe in Him!
We rejoice! What should all this lead you to do? To live holy or separated’ lives.
‘A true disciple or follower of Christ strives to be ‘wholly holy. Are you a follower of Christ. Most of us would say that we are. Are we living holy, separated lives? Only you can answer that before God.
Your response has everything to do with your spiritual growth, with the growth of your church and with a change in the pro-death culture in America.
In order for you and I to exhibit true holiness and please our Lord Jesus Christ, we must obey what I see as three commands of God found in I Peter 1:13-21.
First, we’re to respond to the protected life - verses 13 and 17. Our spiritual lives are protected by the power of God, but there are a few things that we are called upon to do.
Secondly, we’re to resemble the perfect Lord (v. 14-16) and
Thirdly, we’re to remember the precious Lamb (v. 18-21)
Three commands that tell us:
1) How we should respond while on earth
2) What we should be like
3) Why we should respond this way
First, we’re to respond to the protected life, verse 13:
“Therefore..as a result of all that’s been said .. because of all that Christ has done for you freely by His grace…
Prepare your minds for action - The NAS translates it ‘gird up your minds’. What does that mean?
The idea of girding up comes from the practice of the Chinese, who, in years past, in order not to be hindered in their movement, whenever starting on a journey or any work, would bind their garments closely around their bodies and hold them tight with straps like girdles. Why? So they wouldn’t trip up as they traveled.
In like manner, you and I are to prepare our minds for right conduct. It takes effort. It takes a commitment. You have to want to! Do you want to know Him better, no matter how long you known Him? You need to work at it.
Gossip, negativity, complaining – you do become what you think on. Philippians 4:8 tells us “..whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Prepare your minds for action.
Persevere in alertness. In other words, ‘be self-controlled’. Keep sober or calm in spirit; be circumspect (that means cautious, careful – looking around as you go through life.
Be aware that biblical adultery is not just in the act itself but in the long, lingering looks, the improper attentions. When trials comes. When you lose that job. Fail that test. Your loved one gets sick. Do you fall apart, or do you fall at the feet of Jesus?
Why should we persevere and be spiritually alert? Because verse 5 of I Peter 1, our overall salvation is protected by God and these trials are inevitable. They’ll come a day when there will be no more trials, no more temptations, no more tears – because we will have no more sin. We’ll be like Him, because we’ll see Him as He is (I John 3:2).
But now, Peter commands us to respond to this life by being sober and circumspect. Prepare your mind, persevere in alertness, perfectly hope or ‘fix your hope’ on Gods grace to be brought to you (not to be achieved or won, but given to you) at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
I may want to be a good husband and a good father. I believe in this, but I don’t take the steps necessary when they are most important, like in the spending of my time or energy or prayer for my family.
I Peter 5:8, Peter tells us to be sober, or self-controlled and on alert (or watchful) because our adversary, Satan, prowls about after us, but resist him!
“Fix your hope completely” or better “perfectly hope”. The whole idea in these verses is to strive towards perfection. That’s how we can be holy as He is – strive for holiness.
This is a personal attitude. Dedicate yourself for that day when you’ll be free from sin, but while you’re here, resist Satan who wants you to sin. We’ve been already freed from the power of sin every minute of our walk on earth.
The problem is we don’t make that a reality in our day-to-day walk. When you turned your life over to Christ and repented of your sins (and I hope each of you has done that) you were saved from sins penalty, namely, eternal punishment in the lake of fire.
But the story’s not over .. our Christian walk need not be ‘on hold’. For many it is, and that may be the number one reason we aren’t speaking up about the awfulness of abortion – we’re still battling, and losing, the day to day sin skirmishes.
Verse 17 commands us to live in fear or pass our time on earth in reverence to God. What does reverence” really mean to you?
It should mean: Paying respect to Christ.. literally to kiss, or bow down, and worship. It’s realizing, as A.W.Tozer has said, that “we are saved to as well as from something”. He points to the difference in the prepositions. Do you see the difference?
We’re saved from sin, that’s part of it..but we’re saved to have a vibrant, active, holy life. Is that true of you? It can be! “Sin shall not be your master” reckon yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11 and 14)
We show reverence to God and practice Biblical holiness when we:
a. Desire to read the Bible on a regular basis
b. When we spend time in prayer with Him
c. When we take advantage of opportunities to witness for Him
Although we can put on our Sunday best and come to the morning service, God knows our hearts, whether we’ve come to learn and to worship, and He’ll judge according to what’s in our heart, not what’s on our lips.
‘Work’ here in verse 17 is our whole way of feeling and acting, our aims, our motives. The real reason. God knows why we teach Sunday school or do any work in the church – and why we don’t - we can’t fool Him.
What do you need to do? live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
The metaphor in verse 17 is that the life of man on earth is similar to a journey – a trip – we’re just visitors, aliens, pilgrims and as we travel we’re to prepare our minds for action, persevere in alertness, hope perfectly on God’s grace to be revealed, and all of this, in fear, in reverence, in respect of God for who He is and what He has done. This is authentic Christianity!
Imagine your life as a highway. Your life shouldn’t be measured by ‘spiritual birthdays’ how long you’ve been on the road, as much as by how far you’ve traveled down the road of the Christian life.
Respond to the protected life. True holiness isn’t just a mental attitude. It’s, as Frances Scaheffer has said, ‘ an exhibition of the victory of Christ’. Are you exhibiting that victory in your life? If not, you can.
Secondly, the Apostle commands us to resemble the perfect Lord – Verse 14-16
We do this not by conforming to our former lusts, but conforming to true holiness, God Himself.
In order to be obedient children of God, we are not to ‘fashion ourselves’ or conform our mind and character to the sin patterns we had as unbelievers, but we’re to be Holy, as God Himself is Holy.
We’re you a liar before you became a believer? Stop lying now. We’re you bitter? Put off bitterness.
‘Obedient children’ forms the picture of what a child’s attitude should be towards his or her mother. It speaks of the ruling disposition.
It’s not natural to be obedient – any child attests to that. But we need to train our children. In the same way, as a child of God you need to allow God the opportunity to train you to be obedient.
Are you allowing Him that opportunity?
Are we ‘sanctified’ – growing in holiness or ‘sanctimonious’ – assuming and pretending holiness?
Matthew 16:11 speaks of a self-righteousness rather than seeing our righteousness in Christ- Jesus said, ‘But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."’
Personal holiness is an attribute, not a list of “do’s and don’ts”
Peter here isn’t just attacking the sins of those unsaved, but he’s attempting to encourage the Jewish and Gentile believers in Asia Minor so they wouldn’t relapse into their previous sinful life patterns.
Holiness challenges us not to relapse.
Christians having abortions. Christians dating or marrying non-Christians. These are signs of relapse into our previous sinful life patterns.
The former lusts that we indulged in before we came to Christ, were ours, as Peter puts it, “in our ignorance”. This is the same ignorance of divine things mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 4:18 when..you were darkened in your understanding when you were excluded from the life of God, because your heart was hard against God and you had no experiential knowledge of God. It’s all about the heart.
The former lusts refer mainly to sexual longings, but also include sensual pleasures:
a. feasting the body through gluttony
b. feasting the eyes through lust
c. feasting the ears through gossip, slander, backbiting
d. feasting the tongue through negativity, anger, complaining
That should have all been put aside when you came to Christ. Is this true of the believers of this church?
Personal holiness leads to a ‘passion for Christ’. Dispassionate are those lives drunk on the false goal of comfort and ease, numb, visionless, complacent, passive and egocentric. Strong words, but could this be a reason why the church has allowed abortion for so long and participated in it so much.
David Alan Black has said this: “God does not exist for our gratification, regardless how many times we recite the prayer of Jabez. We exist to glorify Him and to advance His kingdom throughout the earth.” Is this your desire; if so, grow in holiness.
We’re not to be conformed to past lusts, but to resemble true holiness –God Himself. The “but” in verse 15 is very emphatic.
We are to become holy, or ‘morally upright’ after the pattern or likeness of God, who called us to salvation and who is to be revered.
This is in stark contrast to the longings mentioned in verse 14. God is holy because He is indescribably pure and sinless. We are to be holy in the sense of separation from sin and to godliness.
Since the kind of ‘holy’ we’re to be is not ‘sinless perfection’, it is achievable right here and right now. We are to resemble the holiness of God in every instance of our behavior.
Jerry Bridges, in his book, The Pursuit of Holiness, gives three reasons why we as believers feel defeated in our struggle with sin:
God wants us to walk in obedience, rather than victory. We want victory, therefore our attitude towards sin is often self-centered.
We misunderstand living by faith (Galatians 2:20) to mean that no effort at holiness is required on our part
We do not take sin seriously. Compromise on the little issues, Bridges says, leads to greater downfalls. Isn’t that really how we got to legalized abortion? One step at a time.
Perhaps that’s how so many Christians can justify getting an abortion. They first justify dating non-believers. Then they justify premarital sex, and from there, it’s a short trip to abortion. This ought not be!
Abortion is a grievous sin, but it can be forgiven.
Jeremy Taylor has suggested many ways that we can be holy as God is holy. I’d like to mention just a few.
1) Being pure in our intentions.
2) Do things for Him and not for others to see us.
3) Having a godly fear of displeasing Him
4) Being consecrated to something– setting aside our time, our talents and our treasures to see ourselves know Him better and see non-believers come to Christ
5) Being separated from the world, not only in what we won’t do, but in those things that we do
6) Being content. So many believers are neither joyful not content. We expect so much from God, but give little in our service to Him
7) Obeying and following our leaders. If we bristle at or complain at earthly leadership, how can we expect to obey God?
8) Resolving unresolved bitterness. Some believers have problems with one another. Can we expect that God is honored by this?
You and I are to resemble His holiness in our zeal to win the lost – in our family – in this community. ‘Remembering the mission’ means more than balancing the missions budget.
It means that we remember Jesus final words on earth in Matthew 28:19, ‘..go and make disciples of all nations,’.
Men and women contemplating abortion are dying to hear from you.
One of the marks of a growing Christian is a desire to see the lost come to Christ. When was the last time we had a burning desire to see the lost saved? When was the last time we shared our faith with an unbeliever?
Verse 16 -"Be holy, because I am holy." That’s why you should discipline yourself for holiness – not to gain favor with God – not even because you are commanded in the Scriptures to do so (and you are), but because out of love for Him and gratefulness for what He has done in saving you for all eternity you want to please Him.
Lev. 11:44 tells us that a man is to consecrate himself ( to become dedicated or set apart to God) from all that defiles him.
If working on your home doesn’t allow you time for service in church, put God first. The house is temporal, your spirit is eternal. (Mark 10:30: )
If making those extra dollars to live comfortably causes you to miss prayer meeting, maybe you’ve forgotten I Chronicles 29:14 – ‘all that we have comes from God and we give out of His hand.’
If getting that boyfriend or girlfriend tempts you to lower your moral standards, maybe you forgotten that Godly marriages are still made in heaven, and not by compromise.
Ephesians 5:1 – “be imitators or mimics of God”
What are you pursuing? The pursuit of happiness or holiness?
In I John 3:3, the Apostle John tells us that, because of the future hope of His appearing, we must purify ourselves. This has the idea of being ready or prepared for His coming.
Are you preparing, day by day, for His appearing by living a holy life, a life set apart from the evil things of this world and set apart to please Him?
Our duty to godliness is to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and Godly in the present age (Titus 2:12).
Before we can fight against abortion and stand for life made in His image, we need to be growing in holiness and set apart.
I Corinthians 1:2 - ‘sanctified in Christ and called to be Holy”
in constant practice not just in external ‘trying harder’ but in getting closer to Him
As someone has said, Are you “ dedicated to Him and to His agenda”. If you are, we’ll make a real impact in honoring the sanctity of life and in honoring our Lord.
Putting off some things (like anger and gossip and complaining) and putting on other things (a heart of compassion to the lost, a generosity in giving, a love for other believers).
We do have a commitment to our neighbors (I John 3:14) – disregarding them, according to the Apostle John, is not loving them. We are to oppose moral evil (abortion, pornography, racial prejudice.
Do you see that holiness involves our attentions, our attitudes and our actions? Holiness has everything to do with ending abortion!
Holiness isn’t just a wispy feeling of self-righteousness, it’s an admission of our inability to live right but a determination to allow Christ to live His life in us.
Being apathetic or lethargic about our spiritual life is about as far as you can get from being Holy. Be careful you don’t fall asleep in the light.
A church united in love, experiencing the love Christ has for them, but not serving Him, or not serving Him faithfully, can’t lead the world to Christ and can’t be a witness against evils, like abortion.
James Boice puts it this way:
a. Joy is the mark of the Christian relationship to himself.
b. Holiness is the mark in relationship to God.
c. Truth is the mark in relationship to the Bible.
d. Mission is the mark in relationship to the world.
Do you want to see a change concerning abortion? Living out God’s truth involves living a life of holiness which includes having a mission. What’s your mission?
Responding, resembling, and lastly, remembering the precious lamb.
The precious blood of Christ: Verse 18, knowing that you were not
redeemed or liberated by perishable things, but with precious blood.
The illustration is that of the slave-market, in which Christ entered and with His precious blood gave the payment of ransom. He took you out and you are His.
We’ve been redeemed by His death as a substitution for us. Not by perishable things like silver or gold, which were used by slaves around Peter’s time to secure their release, but by His blood.
Blood is far more precious than silver or gold. It costs the giver a higher price.
Isn’t it odd that Jeroboam made golden calves and attempted to substitute them for the true God of Israel? Israel wasn’t and neither can we be liberated by any man made substitute for true worship.
Busyness in church, or in our homes, or on the job doesn’t redeem us. Only Jesus does. If you’ve been freed, live like it.
The ‘futile way of life’ in verse 18 is the behavior or manner of life that is vain and leads away from salvation. This was handed down by both Jews and Gentiles. It’s now being handed down to us by TV, the internet and so-called role models.
But our redemption from sin is by means of the blood of Christ, the blood which provides for a faith that in verse 7 is described as ‘precious’ – held in honor, esteemed, especially dear.
Is your faith precious to you? Are you growing in it? Are you striving to resemble His holiness?
The worse the disease, the more thankful when the cure is found.
Some here may need to admit that the disease of sin is very real in your life. Some may need a recommitment to the one who redeemed you from the slave-market of sin. Some may be ripe for repentance and revival. Why not today?
The blood of Christ was shed on the Cross as a pledge of redemption. Christ purchased us and made us ‘His private property’. 2 Corinthians 5:21. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”
Paul, in I Corinthians 6:20 tells us that we’ve ‘been bought with a price, therefore, our response should be.. to glorify God in our body and to not become the ‘ slaves of men’ (I Cor. 7:23); in other words, not to give up your will to another.
We surrender our will to the enemy and hinder personal holiness, when we: Allow our choices to be made by our friends, who aren’t walking with Christ, our in laws, our children, politicians, MSNBS, Fox News, the internet.. it goes on and on. Whose slave are you?
We also hinder personal holiness when we come to church primarily because it’s expected of us, not because we want God to speak to us and this thrills our soul. Do not become the slaves of men.
In verse 18, Christ’s sinless life is pictured in the phrase “a lamb unblemished and spotless” who innocently and patiently endured, to take away our sin through the surrender of His life.
Is there any greater motivation to holiness but the love showered upon us by our Lord?
the perfect plan of God: Referring to Christ, in verse 20, on one hand known beforehand by God, “but not yet made manifest to men” on the other (hand) appearing on earth as a man in these times – when in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son.
Why? For our sake – to redeem and purify us- ‘who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are to be in God.
Once our faith and hope is in God alone, we can be strong – we can do great exploits – we can oppose abortion and we can see lives changed:
-because we’ve personally prepared our minds for action
- because we are conforming to true holiness
- because we remember what He’s done for us.
It’s never to late to repent – to receive Christ or to rededicate your life afresh to God. The Christian life can, once again, be exciting.
In his autobiography, Colonial Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame said that he was always a God-fearing man. In every venture he gave God a tenth of the profits. Yet he knew that if he died, God wouldn’t probably take him to heaven.
One day, Sanders was walking down a street in Louisville, Kentucky when Rev. Waymon Rodgers of Louisville’s Evangel Tabernacle invited him to some evangelistic services. Several days later, Sanders went.
At age 79, he claimed the promises of Romans 10:9: “..if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
‘When I walked out of that church that night, I knew that I was a different man. All my tithing and good deeds had never given me the sense of God’s presence that I knew then’.
The precious blood of the lamb of God, shed for you. Being, wholly holy by knowing Christ intimately.. is that your testimony this morning? Is that your desire? You see, it’s not about life in the womb.
It’s about eternal life in heaven. Once we have that and are growing in Him, we can do much to honor the sanctity of human life while we’re still here on earth.
But first, we all need God’s ‘Sanctifying Power’ – power to cleanse us from all sin, power to keep us pure within, power for service which He will impart.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
From an email by Don Wildmon of the American Family Association
NBC rejects Super Bowl ad because it contains pro-life message
30-second ad features ultrasound pictures from a baby in its mother’s womb
January 30, 2009
NBC television has rejected a pro-life advertisement which Catholicvote.org bought for a slot in the Super Bowl because the ad contains a pro-life message. The 30-second ad features ultrasound pictures from a baby in its mother’s womb. There is nothing either graphic or political and the word abortion is not even used. In fact, no words are spoken, only graphics that appear on-screen. Yet, the message is extremely powerful.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Change We Can Believe In was the campaign theme of the man who on Tuesday became this nations 44th President.
President-elect Barack Obama has said:
‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time.’ We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.’
Spoken in the political arena, this is a powerful statement of confidence in change, something our country desperately seeks while enduring a long war, high gas prices, high food prices, soaring medical costs and the like.
If said from a church pulpit, this statement would border on blasphemy. Why? Listen again to those words:
‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time.’ We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.’
That statement would not be appropriate from the pulpit, because, as believers in Jesus Christ, the only change that we should believe in is that change which is external (coming from God Himself) with results that are internal (those made in our heart)
Our focus today is on personal change that will lead to a change in the abortion landscape.
To change is to be transformed
The Scriptures tell us that we can’t change our self
Jeremiah 13:23 – “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”
For abortion to end, there needs to be a change of heart
Men and women today desire ‘spirituality’ but do they desire a change of heart? What does Scripture reveal?
Psalm 14:2-3 reveals that men, in and of themselves,are not right with God: ‘The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand,any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.’
Simply appealing to the mind of unbelievers to become more ‘pro-life’ fails, because it’s an issue of the heart. Perhaps that’s why a significant number of under 40 year old evangelical Christians didn’t even consider abortion as they voted in the past election.
Changing outward morality without seeking a change of the heart has proved fruitless over these past 37 years of legalized abortion.
Romans 8:8 shows that men are unable to change as God sees change: ‘Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.’
2 Corinthians 4:4 reveals man’s blindness to the truth of the gospel: ‘The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.’
Ephesians 2:1 reveals that apart from Christ, all are‘dead men walking’:
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient
The Apostle Paul reminds us that all who’ve trusted Christ personally shall all be changed one day
In I Cor. 15:51-52 we read these exciting and comforting words: ‘Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed--in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
Change you can believe in - change that leads to a victorious Christian life, change that will reverse this culture of death, change that will put an end to child killing, change that will honor a Holy God, requires that we change in three unique areas:
I. We need to have a change of where we’re headed
II. We need to have a change of heart
III. We need to have a change of habits
I. We need to have a change of direction, a change of where we’re headed –an issue of heaven or hell (this is an external issue)
God has said of man in Genesis 8:21- “..every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood’ .. and so it is today.
What keeps man from salvation? It’s sin and mans unwillingness to believe in what God has already done in Christ.
John 3:16-18 (heaven or hell) – “"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.“
You and I rub shoulders every day with condemned people and‘dead men walking’ all around us. Do you see them? Do you care more about the economy and Social Security and climate change than the souls of those right next to you?
Paul, in I Corinthians 2:14 said – “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Corrupt evil hearts lead to evil deeds, which lead to eternal separation from God
Dead men and women can’t change by themselves. They need some other person’s help to change. They need God’s help.
That’s why the first step to change is being ‘born again’.
Matthew 18:3 And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Not only do we need to have an initial change of direction, a change of where we’re headed – but…
II. We need to have a change of heart – Do you have a desire for true worship, a compassion for the lost, a desire for others above ourselves, a desire to have the truth of Scripture honored above our personal agenda?
The first thing we should say is that God never needs to have a change of heart
Numbers 23:19 - God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
Malachi 3:6 “I the Lord do not change”
God always says what He means and means what He says
Men and women though – you and I - need to be open to constant and regular change
Psalm 55:19 speaks of ..” men who never change their ways and have no fear of God.”
One commentator (JFB) says that ‘prosperity hardens them. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.’ Wesley says that ‘Their success makes them go on securely’
As a nation, we are seeking change, will it be only an outward change at the expense of our values, our heritage or our children?
The desire for inward change is evidence of our fear or reverence of God.
Psalm 25:12: ‘Who is the man who fears the LORD? He will instruct him in the way he should choose.’
Are you burdened by the condition of the lost? They are eternally separated from God. God wants us to be His ambassadors. Are we concerned that we may fail Him in this great task?
Are we willing to make changes so that people may come to Christ? Are we willing to admit mistakes?
God wants us to continually be open to having a‘change of heart’ – Are you open to a change of heart
A heart of compassion. A heart of conviction.
Caring more for people than for money
Caring enough to discipline ourselves in daily Bible reading and prayer
Caring enough to witness with our lips on a regular basis
Caring more in the next four years than complaining about the next 4 years
Remember: The desire to change is evidence of our fear or reverence of God
1 Kings 8 :47-50 –“… and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their conquerors and say, 'We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly';
48 and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name;
49 then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. 50 And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you,
This passage is reminiscent of 2 Chronicles 7:14: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
What keeps us from a ‘change of heart’ from turning from our ways to His ways?
One reason is..
Fear For those gripped by fear of the future or tied down by the successes of the past, God wants you to change your focus.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said ‘we have nothing to fear but fear itself’. For the Christian our only fear should be that of displeasing the God who cared enough to save us from the punishment of our sins.
Someone has said, “ The two greatest sources of worry and fear are the past and the future--remorse over the past and fear of the future - God's Word forbids worry about either!
Someone else has said, ‘ When you have faith, you can't have fear: Faith is the opposite of fear.’
Another reason we’re kept from a ‘change of heart is Pride - We don’t fear displeasing God. We say and do what we think is right for us. We forgot who owns us and who owns our bodies, our lips, our hands. God wants us to fear sin, but not to fear change.
Another reason we don’t change is that we dwell on the past instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to control us today. We’re trapped and stuck and fixated on yesterday.
Phil. 3:13b-14 – ‘But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’
Yet another reason we are kept from a ‘change of heart’ is…
Conformity to the world
Romans 12:2 ‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.’
We can be conformed not only in our deeds but in our thinking as well.
1 John 5:15-17: ‘Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.’
We are kept from making the bold changes that God often has for us by conformity to the fleeting things of this world (money, security, status, personal pleasure)
We fight against the transformation that God calls us to. In the end we lose our joy and we displease the Lord. This doesn’t have to be.
Finally, we are kept from a ‘change of heart’ by..
Rev. 3:15-16 – (being neither hot nor cold) “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Someone has made this profound statement
“Complacency is a blight that saps energy, dulls attitudes, and causes a drain on the brain. The first symptom is satisfaction with things as they are.
The second is rejection of things as they might be. “Good enough” becomes today’s watchword and tomorrow’s standard. Complacency makes people fear the unknown, mistrust the untried, and abhor the new.
Like water, complacent people follow the easiest course—downhill. They draw false strength from looking back.”
Change must begin personally, and then it can become corporate:
Someone has said ‘God blesses individuals’ – God also changes individuals.
‘It’s not what you know or what you do, but whom you know intimately’
For some who have been believers for a long time the question in Galatians 5:7 may be appropriate “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?”
How did you lose your joy?
Have you soured?
Are you afraid of change?
We need to have a change of direction. We need to have a change of heart, lastly
III. We need to have a change of habits – personal habits as well as church habits: criticism, bitterness, we need to have faith rather than fear, conviction not compromise, perseverance over pessimism
Once we are born again, salvation is shown in a changed life.
Does your life show a change since you were saved? Does it show recent change? Not just in a knowledge of the scripture and an ability to pray, but a desire for unity, a desire to see people come to Christ.
Ephesians 4:22-32 (put off / put on) - ‘.put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23. to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
24. and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
25. Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
26. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,
27. and do not give the devil a foothold.
28. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
29. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
30. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
32. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
May I challenge you this year from verse 29?
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen
James 4:8 - draw near to God / cleanse your hands – ‘ Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.’
Choose the world you wish to live in..
I’m reminded of a phrase from the song - Midnight train to Georgia – ‘Id rather live in his world, than live without him in mine’. So we compromise and we end up with nothing.
Which world are you living in? Which world do you want to live in? You can’t live in both.
A changed heart shows itself in changed habits.
So what does change involve?
Change requires perseverance, which is developed through trials
James 1:2-4 ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’ Allow trials to change you on the inside.
Change takes effort – we don’t like change
We never should change our core beliefs, but we can and sometimes should change our methods, especially when the eternal destiny of so many is at stake. Do we see this?
Change involves risk. We fight change because we fear change when that change is personal .
So many, even Christians, are enamored by a call for change because many expect it to be from the outside, but God wants it to be from the inside.
Change involves faith in the working of God, not in our achievement
Do you allow God to ‘Create in you a clean heart’?
Change involves commitment: ‘Are we committed to our comfort or to change?’
Robert F. Kennedy quoting George bernard Shaw said, "Some men see things as they are and say 'why?' I dream things that never were and say, "Why Not?"
In I Corinthians 9:19-24 we see that the Apostle Paul was okay with change.
Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.
I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
Paul was adaptable. He voluntarily and purposefully adapted to the people around him for the sake of the gospel. Do you adapt?
When we grumble against change, and when we fear change, we really doubt God’s ability to provide for us.
The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming.
Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect himself from the elements, and to store his few possessions.
But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst had happened - everything was lost. He was stunned with grief and anger.
"God, how could you do this to me?" he cried.
Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him.
"How did you know I was here?" asked the weary man of his rescuers.
"We saw your smoke signal," they replied.
Are you living like that lone survivor of a shipwreck? Alone, afraid, doubtful, hording what little you have?
Can you see the bigger picture?
God wants to change your life and the future of this church. But there first needs to be a change in our hearts. Will you let Him?
God wants His people to trust in Him. He took care of them on a daily basis. When they did things His way, they had just enough. When they horded what He had provided, it turned to maggots. Their doubt was evident.
They doubted that God would supply. They needed faith not fear.. and so do we.
As we see the emptiness in our hearts, we ask God for a change of direction.
As He directs us and we allow Him to change our hearts, we see changes in our habits.
For those of you who know Christ personally, we need to see change in hearts, not in the political arena
As our hearts change, our focus will change:
1. From things to people
2. From fear to faith
3. From the past to the present need
4. From ourselves to others from complaining to real joy
As our focus changes, our church will see new habits:
1.Praise instead of predictability
2.Compassion instead of complaining
3.Joy rather than jaundice
4.A focus on souls rather than on structures
YES, we do need some other person’s help to change where we’re headed
YES, we do need some other person’s help to change our habits
YES, we do need some other person’s help to change our hearts
No, we can’t change by ourselves. Only He can give us the power to change and become the people he created us to be
Are we open to change for the sake of the gospel and for our personal growth in Christ?
Our motto should be - Yes, He Can change us .. if we let Him
If you’ve never made a personal decision to trust Christ for salvation, 2 Corinthians 6:2 is appropriate for you:
‘..now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.’
If you haven’t already done so, trust Christ personally.. then you can say with the hymn writer: ‘What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought Since Jesus came into my heart! I have light in my soul for which long I had sought, Since Jesus came into my heart!
Power To Change, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, shares this prayer:
"Jesus, I want to know you. I want you to come into my life. I’m sorry for the things I’ve done that have broken my relationship with God. Thank you for dying on the cross so that this relationship could be made right.
I believe You are the only One who can do this. Only You can give me the power to change and become the person You created me to be. Thank you for forgiving my past mistakes and for giving me eternal life with God. I give my life to You. Please do with it as You wish. Amen."
If you already have trusted Christ for salvation, there may be need in your life for changes.
The Living Bible rendition of Ecclesiastes 11:4 is very appropriate: "Do it now… Don't delay for better circumstances"
Are you ready, willing and able to make the adjustments to reach the heart of the lost?
Thursday, January 22, 2009
the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
As our heart changes, our focus changes ..
from things to people
from fear to faith
from the past to the present need
from our agenda to His agenda
from complaining to prayer
Why we need it?
A significant number of those claiming to be born again Christians are confused about John 14:6 –‘I am the way the truth and the life’
37% of white evangelicals believe many religions lead to heaven
11% of believed our actions could get us to heaven
Biblical response? Afflict the comfortable: I Timothy 4:2 – ‘Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.’
People are admitting to struggling in life:
WASHINGTON (AFP) – January 16, 2009: The number of Americans who say their lives are a struggle climbed steeply last year from less than half the population to nearly six in 10 people, a vast Gallup poll showed Friday.
"In January of 2008, 49 percent of Americans were thriving, 47 percent struggling and four percent were suffering. In November and December, 38 percent were thriving, 58 percent struggling and four percent suffering,"
Biblical response? Comfort the afflicted: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.’
Justice is often partial:
Deut. 16:18-19: ‘Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality.’ – Leaders are not to distort justice, not be partial in justice but to judge with ‘righteous judgment’
Biblical response – Vote according to biblical truth and pray for our leaders
Vote for those who represent Biblical views A significant portion of young 20-40 year old born again believers voted in the 2008 election according to the hallmarks of their particular generation. (see below)
Pray for our leaders. I Timothy 2:1-6a – ‘I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone-- for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men’
Biblical response – heed the word while avoiding judgment of ones intent
Matthew 7:1-5: ‘"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?
Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." ‘
The issue: Tolerance versus righteous judgment: judging ourselves / seeing wrong and speaking out. The warning someone said is avoid having a bitter, hypercritical, faultfinding spirit.
Am I right but not righteous? Will Christians continue to criticize President Obama but not work to get the gospel out?
The creators of the Hard Truth video that we use at Gateway – the Center for Bio-ethical reform, ask this question:
What will bring an end to legal abortion?
A Constitutional Amendment?
Nominating Pro-Life Justices?
Making Abortion Unthinkable?
They select # 3 as I would and I’d also add that the only way to make it unthinkable involves reaching the HEART, not just the mind or the emotions.
Gap between Christians of various ages
Baby Boomer - a person who was born during the demographic Post-World War II baby boom. Seventy-six million American children were born between 1946 and 1959. (They are the 49 to 63 year olds around us) They distrust institutions (in the '60s they wore "Question Authority" buttons).
They are shaped by the Vietnam War, the sexual revolution and Watergate. They grew up in good economic times and are considered self-indulgent and desirous of instant gratification.
The age wave theory suggests an impending economic slowdown when the boomers start retiring during 2007-2009. Some experts expect the worst consumer recession, since 1980, to occur when aging boomers start retiring, adding to rising unemployment, decline in house values, and declining stock prices.
Why is this important? Leadership Forum puts it this way..
"The call, of course, is for change of a most dramatic and threatening kind. We need to rediscover how to be at home with the publicans and sinners (assuming that we do know a few of these, which is unlikely for those heavily involved in church programs).
Instead of knowing what we are against, we need to know what we are for and say it with grace, common sense and conviction."
Biblical response – GO into a lost world: Matthew 28:19-20 –
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you’
We need to recognize that much of what we are doing has little meaning for people turned on by material acquisition and addicted to the fulfillment of personal agendas. It is crucial that we be seen by the wider community to be in fellowship with our brothers and sisters of the faith who carry a different denominational tag.
I believe Gateway reflects that fellowship while working to maintain a Biblical standard.
Generation X – Busters - 48 million people ages 38-49 born between 1960 and 1973 – (They are the 36 to 49 year olds around us) A materialistic and image conscious age gave way to overtones of cynicism, satire and outright mocking against things held dear to the previous generations.
They feel influenced and changed by the social problems they see as their inheritance: racial strife, homelessness, divorce, AIDS, fractured families and federal deficits. They are multicultural and very comfortable with technology.
President Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961.
Our president is a part of Generation X.
Knowing this may help us pray for him.
Why is this important? (thoughts from ministry magazine)
Generation X'ers view lifestyle choices - 7 of 10 redefine how they decide what is right and wrong- absolutes. Their compass decision-making is friendships and experiences.
They literally determine right and wrong based upon what seems fair, right and true in light of their perceived loyalty to peers.
Earning access to their hearts and minds means that you have to understand each person's unique background, identity and doubts.
Biblical response - ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ 2 Peter 3:9
Generation Y - 76 million people born between 1974-1980 (They are the 29 to 35 year olds around us) –called the the Millenial Generation or the "Trophy Generation", or "Trophy Kids," a term that reflects the trend in competitive sports (as well as many other aspects of life) where "no one loses" and everyone gets a "Thanks for Participating" trophy. (It’s all about ME)
Why is this important?
Generation Y has been described as directionless, lacking in community ties and meaningful participation in communal life.
There is no easy answer to reaching these people
Novel methods are required to reach them
The kinetic and the audio-visual will catch the attention of these people - (Power point, dancing, etc.)
A warning to those whom God calls to directly engage "Gen Y" is to avoid novelty at the expense of the Word
Biblical response – I Corinthians 9:19-24 ‘Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize."
Relative to church attendance and participation:
62% of those who left would consider returning.
41% would return if someone invited them.
30% would consider returning if it would make a difference to the church.
50% would return if they felt it would bring them closer to God.
1/3 would return if it would fill the spiritual/emotional void in their lives.
64% would prefer to return to the same denomination if they couldn’t go to the same church.
How do we impact these generations? A combination of approaches..
Preach the Word – keep the focus
Allow for change of methods without change of message
Go out of our comfort zone
Pray instead of criticize
Confront instead of complain
Adapt to those we are trying to reach, while not mimicking themJames 1:27 –‘ Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.’
How are you doing in this?
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Wang is from China. She came to Gateway last week seeking help because of her temporary status in America and because she is pregnant. If she is forced to return to China, she will not be cared for due to China's enforced one-child policy. She already has a nine year old child.
Wang is currently at Columbus Hospital and may be miscarrying. Her American friend, Eve has been translating for Wang. Eve has asked us to pray for her. Eve is a believer and is concerned for Wang because she does not know the Lord.