Choosing the Holy Spirit’s Guidance

Choosing the Holy Spirit’s Guidance
Sunday School, MBC, October 27, 2013

Did you like to play follow the leader when you were a kid?

Following directions, instead of figuring out everything on your own, can make life much smoother and easier. I have learned the hard way to start off using the directions in order to save myself time and heartache.

On professional football teams, quarterbacks are equipped with a speaker inside their helmet. When the coach calls in the next play for the offense, he uses a radio to communicate it to the quarterback. Once the quarterback hears the play, he huddles the offensive players together, relays the play to them and then carries out the instructions of his coach.

This model is similar to the way Christians should act. God has called us to follow His voice and carry out instructions for our lives. He speaks to us:

READ John 10:27 – my sheep hear my voice …

So what is the key to following Jesus each day? Hearing His voice as we walk in a close relationship with Him. God has not placed a speaker in our helmet, but He has placed His Spirit in our lives.

READ John 16:5-16

One day my secretary’s computer at work broke down. I like to dabble with computers, but I on this day I called IT to see if they could tell me what the problem was and if I could do anything about it. I quickly discovered, however, that I didn’t even know how to describe what was wrong. I didn’t know the names of the files or what was specifically wrong. I just knew the computer didn’t work.
So IT sent out a technician. While working on her computer, he also called the IT office. Unlike me, he knew how to describe what was needed. He used words I didn’t understand, but the person at the office did, and soon the computer was repaired. My need was met because someone came and communicated to headquarters in words I could not express. The apostle Paul teaches in Romans 8 that this is also what the Holy Spirit does for us. When we don’t know how to pray, the Holy Spirit knows precisely what we need and prays in a language the Father perfectly understands.

We have a choice every day. We can choose to listen to God’s instructions and follow His Spirit or we can ignore those promptings. But ignoring has its consequences.

READ Hebrews 3:7-8 and 3:15

What is the result of ignoring the Spirit’s voice in our lives? Each time we fail to recognize or refuse to follow the Spirit’s voice in our lives, our hearts go harder. Many Christians prefer to call their own plays and live their lives according to their own desires. Making the right choices when faced with critical decisions becomes easier when we remember the following truth: our role is not to call our own plays, but to follow the instructions from our Heavenly Coach given through the microphone of the Holy Spirit.

When we bought our car, we researched and found the one that would be best for us. We took results from research and picked a make we had never bought before. Until that time, I never even noticed this kind of car on the road. After we bought it, I began to notice several cars where we lived. When we moved to Longview, I not only noticed more cars, now there was three the same color as ours in our church.

In the same way, when we accept Christ and His Spirit comes to reside in our hearts, we begin to notice Him working around us in ways we haven’t noticed before. We begin to sense His voice prompting us. Recognizing Him and His work in our lives is the first step we must take.

As Jesus prepared to go to the cross, He wanted His disciples to know they would not be left alone in the world. In our focal passage today, Jesus gave some encouraging words to His disciples prior to His death. He told them that in their grief, He would provide them with the Holy Spirit. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would have three roles in the world.

1. First, the Holy Spirit helps us recognize our need for God – “He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin”. He works in the hearts of those who are away from God.
2. Secondly, the Spirit makes us aware that we are separated from God because of our sin, that Christ is the answer for our separation from God –“because I am going to the Father where you can see Me no longer. The Spirit works in the conscience of individuals revealing truth, but there are many who still want to follow their own way.

READ Romans 1:18-19

3. The third aspect of the Spirit’s work in the world is that He reminds us of God’s attitude toward sin – “in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned”. He shows us the consequences of disobeying God’s Word. God will judge all evil, including Satan himself.

Those are the three main roles the Holy Spirit will play. In verse 13, Jesus specifically addresses the role the Holy Spirit would play in the lives of the disciples.

READ John 14:26

What would the Holy Spirit do for the disciples when Jesus was gone? He would teach them all things and remind them of everything Jesus had said to them. In the same way Jesus taught them and acted as their guide, now the Holy Spirit would teach and guide them.

In the book Healing the Masculine Soul, Gordon Dalbey says that when Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Helper, he uses a Greek word, paraclete, that was an ancient warrior’s term. “Greek soldiers went into battle in pairs,” says Dalbey, “so when the enemy attacked, they could draw together back-to-back, covering each other’s blind side. One’s battle partner was the paraclete.” Our Lord does not send us to fight the good fight alone. The Holy Spirit is our battle partner who covers our blind side and fights for our well being. Tom Tripp, Colusa, California. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 2.

Why should we follow the Spirit’s lead? According to Jesus, there are at least three reasons.

1. The Holy Spirit guides us rather than forcing Himself on us. Verse 13 tells us this. He will, however, only control our thoughts and actions to the point we relinquish control. As we look for guidance in the decisions we make in life each day, the Spirit is there to help us make the right ones.

Some people say our English word Holy Ghost has its roots in an old Anglo-Saxon word from which we also get our word guest. Whether that is true or not, there is a relationship between ghost and guest. Paul teaches us that the Holy Spirit is a Holy Guest in the life and body of the believer. Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).

2. We should also follow the Spirit’s guidance because He can be trusted. Jesus tells us that He will “guide us in all truth”. One author states, “The function of the Spirit is not to communicate new truth or to instruct in matters unknown, but to illuminate what is revealed in Scripture.” Bernard Hamm

“He will guide you into all truth.” Truth may be compared to some cave with wondrous stalactites reaching from the roof, and others reaching from the floor, a cavern glittering with spar and abounding in marvels. Before entering the cavern you enquire for a guide, who comes with his lighted torch. He conducts you down to a considerable depth, and you find yourself in the midst of the cave. He leads you through different chambers. Here he points you to a little stream rushing from amid the rocks and indicates its rise and progress. There he points to some peculiar rock and tells you its name, then takes you into a large natural hall, tells you how many persons once feasted in it, and so on. Truth is a grand series of caverns, it is our glory to have so great and wise a conductor as the Holy Spirit. Imagine that we are coming to the darkness of it. He is a light shining in the midst of us to guide us. And by the light he shows us wonderful things. He teaches us by suggestion, direction, and illumination. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)

3. Finally, we should follow the Spirit’s guidance because He speaks the words of the Father Himself. Verse 13 says that He will speak only what He hears from the Father.

You see or hear something once. You take no particular notice. A second time and you are intrigued for a moment, a third time and you take notice. The Bible works that way. It does not shriek something, it merely repeats it, showing us something again and again until it begins to register. Herbert O’Driscoll in And Every Wonder True. Christianity Today, Vol. 32, no. 6.

How does the Holy Spirit speak to us? Scripture, godly counsel, prayer, and the internal prompting in our lives.

How does He prompt us? There are two ways:

1. Through the peace He gives to our hearts.
READ Colossians 3:15
READ Philippians 4:6-7

That peace serves like an umpire in our hearts, letting us know when we are in or out of bounds according to God’s will and Word. Peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22)

2. Through His work with our conscience.
READ Romans 9:1-2

The Spirit will bring conviction when we sin, the truth of Scripture when we are faced with moral dilemmas, and godly knowledge when we don’t know how to react or respond in certain situations.

The human body is a most remarkable machine. It can maintain a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees no matter what the weather is outside. Whether a man is at the Arctic Circle or the equator, his body temperature is about the same. There is an inner mechanism that makes the difference. The Holy Spirit dwells within the Christian to achieve this kind of stabilization in terms of spiritual health. Whether we face good times or bad, whether we are tempted or receiving spiritual nourishment, the Holy Spirit keeps us stable within. Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).

Why is it so difficult for us to hear God’s voice during the daily routine of life? With so many voices competing for our attention (newspaper, radio, tv, billboards, opinions of others) we must train our heart to hear God’s voice in the midst of all other messages that come our way. How do we do this? Here are three ways:

1. Put up your spiritual antennas each day and listen for the Spirit’s prompting. Start your morning by meditating on Scripture. Focus your heart through prayer and tune you mind to hear God by recalling Scripture and praying without ceasing. Remember – God is not bound by your schedule or busy calendar. He speaks to you at any time. If you are too busy for God, then you are busier than God ever planned you to be!
2. Keep a journal of the Spirit’s prompting in your life each day this week. Keeping a journal will allow you to see how the Spirit has led you through difficult decisions or convicting sins you are dealing with. Recording those times will help to see Him at work.
3. Pray that God would give you His peace in the critical decisions you are facing.
READ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

By doing so, we can come back to Philippians 4:6-7.

It is possible to place sugar in water (or tea) until the saturation point is reached. Then the water cannot absorb any more sugar. It is impossible, however, to reach a saturation point with regard to the Holy Spirit. Our need is so great. The resources are so unlimited. Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).

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Choosing God’s Will

Choosing God’s Will – Navigating God’s White Water
Sunday School, MBC October 20, 2013

Is there something in your life that poses a threat to your allegiance to Christ?

WHAT WAS HARD FOR YOU TO LET GO AS A CHILD: a blanket, a bottle, a fear, training wheels on a bike? Letting go of something secure is always difficult, not only for children, but for adults too! The real difficulty lies in letting go of our will and choosing to follow God’s will.

Letting go of our will is a choice. When we chose to follow after God, we chose to ride in His River. His river has a current that flows in one direction. When we come to a decision, we can choose to go with the river or fight and go “upstream”. How do we make easier choices? Choices are easier when we are committed from the beginning to do God’s will. Sometimes that river is like rafting in the white water of a rough stream. If you know anything about white water rafting, you should know to not fight the river during the rough times. Instead, you should steer and maneuver through the river, watching what the river does at each turn.

When we understand this analogy, our life becomes much easier. Jesus knew this and that is why we need to study His reactions and as He went through the rough parts. Knowing His reactions will help us to know how to steer through our rough times.

READ Philippians 2:1-5
READ Philippians 2:6-11

Have you ever been overwhelmed when dealing with the difficult questions of life? Jesus knew we would be overwhelmed at times. At one point, He addressed this with His disciples:

READ Matthew 10:19-20

He knew His disciples would encounter difficult times and that is why He encouraged them. He promised to never leave us or forget about us in the difficult times. He will give us the wisdom we need when we don’t have the words to speak.

A famous scientist was on his way to give another lecture when his chauffeur offered an idea. “Hey boss, I’ve heard your speech so many times, I bet I could deliver it and give you the night off.” “Sounds great!” the scientist said. When they got to the auditorium, the scientist put on the chauffeur’s hat and settled into the back row. The chauffeur walked to the lectern and delivered the speech. Afterward he asked if there any questions. “Yes”, said one of the professors. Then he launched into a high technical question. The chauffeur was panic-stricken for a moment, but quickly recovered. “That’s an easy one,” he replied. “So easy, I’m going to let my chauffeur answer it.”

There will be times that we do not have the words to say. It is then that we must choose to let God intervene.

There are also times when we face circumstances that leave us struggling with knowing how to pray. Paul gives us some encouraging words:

READ Romans 8:26

We can draw encouragement in knowing that God is eager to help us know what to SAY and what to PRAY. But, there is a condition to this: we must be willing and committed to following God’s will. If not, we will be like the man James talks about:

READ James1:6-8

It is awesome to realize that at the end of our lives we will be the sum total of our responses to God’s answers to our prayers, for God has chosen to be limited in His next action by our response to His previous answer. The final outcome of our lives is decided by a life-long series of responses of God’s answers to our prayers. The way we respond to God and then He, in turn, to us actually determines the direction our lives will take.
Evelyn Christenson in My Heart Sings. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 17.

I mentioned to you that we need to model Jesus’ reactions to the river of life in order to learn and respond properly. Let me suggest to you three responses which will help us navigate through the river of tough times as well as the pool of calm water.

1. Jesus intended to do the will of God from the start.
Jesus was not incidental in obeying God’s will. He was intentional. No one just happens to do the will of God in their life. We must be intentional Christians by choosing to live in God’s will. Verse five tells us that we should have the same attitude as Jesus. That means to think and live like Jesus lived. Jesus did the Father’s will from the beginning. He didn’t complain or ask for another plan. He just did.

The receiving of the Word consist of two parts: attention of mind and intention of will.
— William Ames, Leadership, Vol. 8, no. 3.

A student received an appointment from a bishop, and the student did not feel the placement exactly suited his abilities. He was heard complaining about it to another student, and then the other student said, “You know, the world’s a better place because Michelangelo did not say, ‘I don’t do ceilings.’ ” .
If you and I are going to be faithful to the ministry God is calling us to, then we had better understand that. Consider the attitudes of key people throughout the Scriptures and the history of the church.
The world’s a better place because a German monk named Martin Luther did not say, “I don’t do doors.”
The world’s a better place because an Oxford don named John Wesley didn’t say, “I don’t do preaching in fields.”
The world’s a better place because Moses didn’t say, “I don’t do Pharaohs or mass migrations.”
The world’s a better place because Noah didn’t say, “I don’t do arks and animals.”
The world’s a better place because Rahab didn’t say, “I don’t do enemy spies.”
The world’s a better place because Ruth didn’t say, “I don’t do mothers-in-law.”
The world’s a better place because Samuel didn’t say, “I don’t do mornings.”
The world’s a better place because David didn’t say, “I don’t do giants.”
The world’s a better place because Peter didn’t say, “I don’t do Gentiles.”
The world’s a better place because John didn’t say, “I don’t do deserts.”
The world’s a better place because Mary didn’t say, “I don’t do virgin births.”
The world’s a better place because Paul didn’t say, “I don’t do correspondence.”
The world’s a better place because Mary Magdalene didn’t say, “I don’t do feet.”
The world’s a better place because Jesus didn’t say, “I don’t do crosses.”
And the world will be a better place only if you and I don’t say, “I don’t do …”
— Leonard Sweet, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio. Leadership, Vol. 15, #2.

2. Jesus surrendered day by day.
The Bible tells us that Jesus “humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross”. Let me give you three examples:

a. Jesus had just fed 5000+ people with a small boy’s lunch. The people were so impressed that they wanted to make Jesus their earthly king! Knowing that, Jesus responded in John 6:15 by withdrawing and going off by Himself. He CHOSE TO RESIST this offer of power and continue with God’s plan for His life.
b. In Mark 8, we find one of Jesus’ closest friends rebuking Him at the thought of His going to the cross. Instead of agreeing with Peter, Jesus told him to “get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Jesus knew that CHOOSING THE THINGS OF GOD were more important.

Never try to explain God until you have obeyed Him. The only bit of God we understand is the bit we have obeyed.
— Oswald Chambers in Run Today’s Race. Christianity Today, Vol. 35, no. 11.

c. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was struggling with the thought of death. His choice in this situation is over AGONY OR PHYSICAL SAFETY & WELL BEING. He said in Matthew 26 that He would rather not drink from the cup of agony. I think we would have the same thought. Jesus, however, would rather do the will of God, than what is convenient. He would have us to do the same also.

If we refuse to take the risk of being vulnerable, we are already half-dead. If you are half-dead, you don’t have to starve with the people of Ethiopia. You don’t have to share the terrible living conditions of old people struggling to exist on dwindling, inadequate social-security payments in our overcrowded, hostile cities. You don’t have to smell the stench of filth and disease and hunger in the slums and barrios.
We are not all called to go to El Salvador, or Moscow, or Calcutta, or even the slums of New York. But none of us will escape the moment when we have to decide whether to withdraw, to play it safe, or to act on what we prayerfully believe to be right.
— Madeleine L’Engle in A Stone for a Pillow. Christianity Today, Vol. 31, no. 2.

3. Jesus knew what the true treasure was.
If we truly choose to follow God’s will, there are some risks. We can be misunderstood. We can miss out on some earthly pleasures and material gain.
DO YOU MEASURE YOURSELF BY WHAT YOU HAVE?

At the end of World War I, Herbert Hoover, later to become President of the United States, led the allied relief efforts in Europe. He kept hundreds of thousands from starving, and a new word entered the Finnish language. In Finland, to hoover means to be kind, to help. If someone coined a word from your name, what would it be? Would it signify character? Helpfulness? Cheerfulness? Or would it be some mean and ugly word? Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).

It is very difficult to live in the current of God’s will unless we live with the thought of eternity in all we do. We must realize that there is more to life than what we see. Jesus was always conscious of the heavenly prize before him.

READ Hebrews 12:2 – That’s FOCUS! Are you focused on the cross?

Jesus knew what He “lost” in terms of earth; He would gain in terms of heaven. When we decide from the start that our lives are committed to living in the will of God, great momentum is on our side for making wise decisions and gaining eternal rewards.

Making the right choices in life is much easier when you’ve settled in your spirit who has your allegiance. Let me suggest three steps to strengthen that allegiance:

1. Identify those things that pose a threat to your allegiance to Christ. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST THREAT OR OBSTACLE THAT YOU FACE? This will be different for each of us, but we all need to identify those obstacles Satan can use to hinder our relationship with God.
2. Write a mission statement. Every time you need to make a decision, go to that mission statement and determine to follow God’s plan in your life.
3. Pray that God would give you a discerning heart. As we navigate the rapids of life, we need to learn to respond to God’s current. That response is through a discerning heart. Allow Him to be the light of your path and the lamp to your way. The closer your relationship is with Him, the easier this will become. A discerning heart will act as your guide through the rapids.

Choosing God’s Authority

Choosing God’s Authority – His will vs. my will
Sunday School, MBC, October 13, 2013

Do you like to be the leader or the follower?

All of us grow up and live under someone else’s authority. In the same way that we had to learn to accept a parent’s authority, we need to also accept God’s authority in our lives. Only then do we have freedom.

Freedom does not mean the absence of constraints or moral absolutes. Suppose a skydiver at 10,000 feet announces to the rest of the group, “I’m not using a parachute this time. I want freedom!” The fact is that a skydiver is constrained by a greater law–the law of gravity. But when the skydiver chooses the “constraint” of the parachute, she is free to enjoy the exhilaration. God’s moral laws act the same way: they restrain, but they are absolutely necessary to enjoy the exhilaration of real freedom.
– Colin Campbell in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker)

WHO ARE SOME GREAT COACHES? Joe Paterno, Tom Landry, etc.
WHY ARE THEY CONSIDERED GREAT? Their players “bought into” the coach’s character, plans and personality. It is difficult for players to give their best effort when they don’t trust the person in charge and his plans for the team. The same is true of leadership. Great leaders must earn trust and respect.
IS THE SAME FOR CHRISTIANS? YES! Until we “buy into” and really get to know the heart of God, we will resist the rules that He sets down for us to follow.

God wants us to seek Him first and put His will on the top of our priority list. As we seek Him, placing ourselves under His authority is a delight.

READ Psalm 119:44-48
READ Jeremiah 15:16

Once we get a glimpse of the heart of God, His commands become a joy because we know and trust the One giving them. You see, there is great value in placing our lives under God’s authority. We learn that maximum FREEDOM comes from SUBMITTING to God’s rule in our lives.

When you stand beside a 747 jet on the runway, its massive weight and size makes it seem incapable of breaking the holds of gravity. But when the power of its engines combines with the laws of aerodynamics, the plane is able to lift itself to 35,000 feet and travel at 600 miles per hour. Gravity is still pulling on the plane, but as long as it obeys the laws of aerodynamics, it can break free from the bonds of earth.
“Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2).

When we try to exert our own authority instead of subjecting ourselves to the authority of God, we have a problem. Consider this illustration:

The lion was proud of his mastery of the animal kingdom. One day he decided to make sure all the other animals knew he was the king of the jungle. He was so confident that he bypassed the smaller animals and went straight to the bear. “Who is the king of the jungle?” he asked. The bear replied, “Why, you are, of course.” The lion gave a mighty roar of approval. Next, he asked the tiger, “Who is the king of the jungle?” The tiger quickly responded, “Everyone knows that you are mighty lion.” Next on the list was the elephant. The lion faced the elephant and addressed his question: “Who is the king of the jungle?” The elephant immediately grabbed the lion with his trunk, whirled him around in the air five or six times, and slammed him into a tree. Then he pounded the lion on the ground several times, dunked him under water in a nearby lake, and finally threw him on the shore. The lion – beaten, bruised and battered – struggled to his feet. He looked at the elephant through sad and bloody eyes and said, “Look, just because you don’t know the answer is no reason for you to get mean about it!”

Authority has been a problem for man from the very beginning. Consider an all too familiar account in the Garden of Eden:

READ Genesis 2:15-17 – that is the rule from God
READ Genesis 3:1-6 – there we go, bucking the rule!

As we grew into our teenage years, we typically longed for more freedom in our decision making. The last thing many of us wanted to hear is our parent’s point of view. But as we continued to grow into an adult, we naturally stepped out from the umbrella of our parent’s authority. That model is not seen in the Christian life. We need to stay under God’s umbrella or we are going to get wet with the rain of bad choices and difficult circumstances. Some have felt that the older they got, the less they needed God. This is NOT a sign of maturity. Maturity for the Christian is to stay under God’s umbrella.

To applaud the will of God, to do the will of God, even to fight for the will of God is not difficult … until it comes at cross-purposes with our will. Then the lines are drawn.
Richard J. Foster, Christian Reader, Vol. 31.

Many Christians feel more comfortable with the idea that apart from Christ they can do nothing (John 15:5), than they do with the other side of that coin: that they can do all things through Him who strengthens them (Phil. 4:13). “I can do nothing” lets me off the hook; “I can do all things” makes me wonder why I’m not doing anything. It’s easier to piddle around wondering whether it’s God’s will that you buy this car or that one, than it is to face up to God’s ultimate will for you: that you become conformed to the image of His Son. (Rom. 8:29)
John Boykin in The Gospel of Coincidence. Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 2.

The problem that many of us encounter is that we don’t like to be told what to do. As children, we didn’t like to be told to share our toys or do our chores. This resistance to authority remains a struggle for many throughout their lives. As a result, many choose a path they think will lead to more freedom in their lives. It is a trap which actually leads to the opposite. Instead of more freedom, they encounter less freedom and possibly bondage. The Bible has a concise way of looking at this:

READ Proverbs 14:12 – our own authority will lead to our own death

The prophet Isaiah laments Satan’s fall from grace because of his pride. Before the Devil rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven, he was created by God as Lucifer, and called the Morning Star, Son of the Dawn. But serving our loving God apparently wasn’t good enough for Lucifer. He came to believe he could rule better than God. So Lucifer rebelled against God’s authority and became known as Satan, the Devil, the Serpent.

Isaiah 14:12-15 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. NIV

Isaiah gives us a look into the heart of Satan – and humanity. The Devil wasn’t content to be governed by a loving and benevolent God. He wasn’t willing to live under God’s authority any longer. His heart was filled with pride and he decided he wanted to rule his own life and not be subject to the rule of God. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like us?

In Genesis 2:15-17, we see the way God wanted the world to be. In God’s original design, man and woman would exist without interference from sin. Adam and Eve were living in a world very similar to the kind of world most of us would want – a world without a lot of rules. I can only find one rule God established in the garden – don’t mess with THAT tree! It seems that God’s original plan is that He likes the idea of freedom. As long as Adam functioned under God’s authority, everything would be fine. But that is not the way the story goes. Adam lost his freedom.

DID GOD TAKE HIS FREEDOM AWAY? No – sin took it away. It was the devil that successfully made Eve mistrust God and encouraged her to be disobedient. The devil’s line was that she could have NO RULES if she stepped out of God’s authority. In reality, instead of gaining freedom, Adam and Eve both LOST freedom. WHAT DID THEY LOSE? They lost the freedom to live in the garden, to have a life without pain, to live without disease, to be free of guilt, to relate to God without sin, to experience relationships without conflict and to live without sin. WHY DO WE NEED RULES? Because any time we are in a dangerous place, rules are established for our protection. God gave us rules (laws) not to restrict our freedom, but to protect it. God knew living outside the garden would be dangerous, but Adam and Eve chose not to stay under God’s care.

What about us? Are we living under God’s umbrella? It is a matter of trust.
DO YOU TRUST GOD? Some hesitate to submit to God’s leadership because they don’t trust Him. The problem is with the RELATIONSHIP! Rules apart from a relationship always lead to a lack of trust and, consequently, rebellion (Josh McDowell). We need to embrace a relationship with the “rule giver”, rather than the rules themselves. How we perceive God’s rules has everything to do with how we perceive God. Seeing God’s rules for what they are only comes when we see God for who He is. It is not until we strengthen our relationship with God do we see those fences as protection instead of restriction.

SO, HOW CAN WE APPLY THIS?
1. Today, decide to stay under God’s umbrella of authority – willingly.
2. Ask God to reveal those commands in Scripture you have trouble obeying. Ask “What is God trying to protect me from or what is he trying to provide?
Invest in THE RELATIONSHIP to encourage your trust in God’s hand. Get to know The Rule-Giver better.

Choosing Wisdom in Relationships – 10/6/2013

Choosing Wisdom in Relationships
MBC, October 6, 2013

Who do you consider to be the wisest person you know?

We all have different ways of approaching relationships. We’re influenced by many factors, including our personality and past experiences.

HOW DOES GOD WANT US TO RELATE TO OTHERS? With wisdom – His.

READ James 3:13-18

A successful sports team must develop a “game plan” in order to win. A game plan takes into account the other team’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as their own. Coaches work diligently to develop offensive plays and defensive alignments that will give their team the greatest chance for success against the team they are playing. For the past two weeks, we have been talking about developing a game plan AGAINST the devil and his plans. Today, let’s consider a game plan FOR God.

Each of us has a game plan when it comes to relationships in our lives. According to James, there are two possible plans we can choose from. WHAT ARE THEY? Using earthly wisdom and godly wisdom. All decisions we make will be made from one of these plans. Decisions are critical because of the vast number of personalities we come into contact with every day. Many of the problems we have are related to personality conflicts and strained relationships because of those conflicts. It could be a family member, a neighbor, or a coworker.

How many of you are familiar with the story of Wily Fox and Brer Rabbit? “The fox made a doll out of tar and stuck it on the side of the road. When Rabbit saw the tar baby, he thought it was a person and stopped to visit. It was a one-sided conversation. The tar baby’s silence bothered the rabbit. He couldn’t stand to be next to someone and not communicate with them. So in his frustration, he hit the tar baby and stuck to it. He hit the tar baby again with the other hand and, you guessed it, the other hand got stuck.”

That is how it is with many of our relationships – we get stuck with someone we can’t communicate with.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN THIS HAPPENS? We have a choice. We can approach our relationships with wisdom from the world or with wisdom from God. Let’s use James’ words to help us make the right choice.

Every day we plant seeds in our relationships. These seeds can be good or bad. How often do we sow words of discouragement, anger or criticism and expect to reap good relationships in return? We need to understand the principle of sowing and reaping.

READ Galatians 6:7-8

James tells us in verse 18 that the wise person sows words, behaviors and attitudes that promote peaceful relationships. We do this by focusing on godly wisdom instead of earthly wisdom.

So what is wisdom? James says in verse 13 that wisdom is not knowledge or intelligence. Wisdom, is a lifestyle and is evidenced by the way we live. It is especially evident in the character we display in our relationships and the manner in which we get along with others.

James differentiates the two kinds of wisdom in verse 16. He calls the wisdom that causes untold problems in relationships worldly or earthly wisdom. He might tell us to look at our relationships to determine which wisdom is being used.

In contrast, the other kind is godly wisdom. James shows us six characteristics of this kind of wisdom starting in verse 17.

1. Purity or Integrity – the word pure means uncorrupted or authentic. If we are wise, we will not try to manipulate others, lie to others, practice deceitfulness, cheat others, or use people for selfish gain. Instead, we build our relationships on trust and honesty.

READ Psalm 119:9

At a national spelling contest in Washington an incident occurred that made me feel good–and made me wonder. In the fourth round of the contest, Rosalie Elliot, then an eleven-year-old from South Carolina, was asked to spell avowal. In her soft Southern accent she spelled it. But did the seventh grader use an a or an e as the next to last letter? The judges couldn’t decide. For several minutes they listened to tape recording playbacks, but the critical letter was accent-blurred. Chief Judge John Lloyd finally put the question to the only person who knew the answer, “Was the letter an a or was it an e? he asked Rosalie. Surrounded by whispering young spellers, she knew by now the correct spelling of the word. Without hesitating, she replied she had misspelled it. She walked from the stage.
The entire audience stood and applauded, including half a hundred newspaper reporters, one of whom was heard to remark that Judge Lloyd had put quite a burden on an eleven-year-old. Rosalie rated a hand and it must have been a heartwarming and proud moment for her parents. The thing that makes me wonder, however, was the apparent feeling on the part of so many that the issue might have been in doubt and that honesty might have bowed to temptation. Have we in this age stopped taking honesty for granted, even from our children?

2. Being peace-loving – We are not to be bent on using anger to get our way or win arguments. We all know people who always seem to be looking for a fight. These individuals are not being wise. All of us could probably think of something we have said or done in anger. We need to control our tempers, because when anger is allowed to go unchecked, we make painful mistakes.
Anger is a fire; it catches, destroys, and consumes. Let us quench it by long-suffering and forbearance. For as red hot iron dipped into water loses its fire, so an angry man falling in with a patient one does no harm to the patient man, but rather benefits him and is himself more thoroughly subdued.

READ Proverbs 14:29

3. Showing consideration – how we respond to others. James tells us to be considerate, gentle, courteous and mindful of the feelings of others. When we minimize other’s feelings, we can easily crush their spirit. Wisdom means we take the feelings of others seriously and respond with kind words.

A polite man is one who listens with interest to things he knows about when they are told to him by a person who knows nothing about them. Phillipe de Mornay (1549-1623)

Nothing is ever lost by courtesy. It is the cheapest of the pleasures; costs nothing and conveys much. It pleases him who gives and him who receives, and thus, like mercy, it is twice blessed. Erastus Wiman

READ Proverbs 15:4

4. Being submissive – an openness to new ideas or the opinions of others, open to reason, or open for discussion. Can other people reason with you? Do you get defensive too easily? Are you open to advice and counsel?

In the movie The Poseidon Adventure, the ocean liner S.S. Poseidon is on the open sea when it hits a huge storm. A wall of water crashes through the ballroom chandelier. Men in tuxes and women in evening gowns scream and run. Lights go out, smoke pours into rooms and, amid all the confusion, the ship flips over.
Because of the air trapped inside the ocean liner, it floats upside down. But in the confusion, the passengers can’t figure out what’s going on. They scramble to get out, mostly by climbing the steps to the top deck. The problem is, the top deck is now 100 feet under water. In trying to get to the top of the ship, they drown.
The only survivors are the few who do what doesn’t make sense. They do the opposite of what everyone else is doing and descend into the dark belly of the ship until they reach the hull. By going down, they reach the ocean’s surface. Rescuers hear them banging and cut them free.
In our relationships, it’s as if God has turned the ship over and the only way for us to find freedom is to choose what doesn’t make sense: lay down our lives by serving, supporting, and sacrificing for each other.

READ Proverbs 12:15

5. Being full of mercy and good fruit – how we respond to the mistakes of others. Being full of mercy means that we give others what they need, not what they deserve. We have a choice – we can RUB IT IN and hound others about their past mistakes or we can RUB IT OUT and forgive them.
On the evening of April 25, 1958, a young Korean exchange student, a leader in student Christian affairs in the University of Pennsylvania, left his flat and went to the corner to post a letter to his parents in Pusan. Turning from the mailbox he stepped into the path of eleven leather-jacketed teenage boys. Without a word they attacked him, beating him with a blackjack, a lead pipe and with their shoes and fists. Later, when the police found him in the gutter, he was dead. All Philadelphia cried out for vengeance. The district attorney secured legal authority to try the boys as adults so that those found guilty could be given the death penalty. Then a letter arrived from Korea that made everyone stop and think. It was signed by the parents and by twenty other relatives of the murdered boy. It read in part:
“Our family has met together and we have decided to petition that the most generous treatment possible within the laws of your government be given to those who have committed this criminal action–.In order to give evidence of our sincere hope contained in this petition, we have decided to save money to start a fund to be used for the religious, educational, vocational, and social guidance of the boys when they are released–.We have dared to express our hope with a spirit received from the gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ who died for our sins.”
A. Leonard Griffith, Beneath the Cross of Jesus

READ Proverbs 17:9

6. Being impartial and sincere – treating everyone the same and avoiding showing favorites. We are sincere when we are honest about our weaknesses. This is difficult because we tend to put on our best face before others, especially at church. Earthly wisdom tells us to hide those ugly things in our life that others probably already know about us anyway. We’re not wise when we pretend to be perfect, because everyone else can see through our act! The wise person doesn’t try to be someone they’re not. We are at our best when we focus on being our godly selves. Wisdom is treating everyone the same and being the same person no matter who we’re with.

Honesty has a beautiful and refreshing simplicity about it. No ulterior motives. No hidden meanings. An absence of hypocrisy, duplicity, political games, and verbal superficiality. As honesty and real integrity characterize our lives, there will be no need to manipulate others.
Charles R. Swindoll

READ Proverbs 11:1

Knowing what is right and doing what is right are two different things. Whether you’ve gotten anything out of this message or not will depend on what you do from now on in your relationships. Remember the GIGO principle. What are you approaching your relationships with: godly wisdom or earthly wisdom?

Using the scale, answer the following questions on a 1-10 scale:

I am honest and pure in my motives.
I control my temper.
I am considerate.
I am open to reason and counsel.
I forgive the mistakes of others easily.
I am impartial and genuine with others.
Your answers will determine which wisdom you are using.

2. Seek forgiveness from those who you have hurt because you relied on earthly wisdom. You may be unaware that your behavior has hurt someone’s feeling or harmed a relationship. Is there disorder or a “wall” build up in a relationship? Refusing to forgive, being jealous or being selfish are all aspects of earthly wisdom that can destroy relationships. Go to those whom you have offended and ask for forgiveness. This requires dropping your pride and ego, too.

3. Ask God daily for wisdom in becoming a peacemaker in all your relationships.

READ James 1:5

We need God’s wisdom every day in everything we do. It is what we should pray for now.

Choosing Godly values – 9/29/13

Choosing Godly Values
Sunday School, MBC 9/29/13

Where did you get your values from?

All around us there are things taking place that we overlook. This includes the spiritual world as well as the physical.

HOW DOES THE WORLD’S VALUE SYSTEM SUBTLY INFILTRATE OUR LIVES AND AFFECT OUR CHOICES?

In football, the goal of the offense is to get the ball into the end zone and score touchdowns. This is usually not an easy task. The problem is the presence of an opposing force on every play. This force is called the DEFENSE. The 11 players on the defensive side of the ball are doing all they can to prevent the offense from moving the ball down the field and scoring. As a result, one of the first things a football coach does to prepare his team to play is to teach his assistant coaches and players how to “READ THE DEFENSE” on every play. The most successful offenses in football are the ones that recognize the defense’s tendencies and strategies and learn to counteract them. You can say the same thing about the Christian life (Page 10). A good quarterback sometimes changes the play the offense is planning to run because he reads something in the defense he didn’t expect. He changes the plan and executes another play that will be more successful against that defense.

As we seek to make a difference in this world for God, we discover that the task is not always easy. Today’s lesson will show us the tendencies and strategies of a spiritual “defensive force” that opposes God’s people and their work for His kingdom.

READ Ephesians 6:12 – we wrestle not with flesh and blood

What can we gain from understanding our foe? By learning to read the defense, we can recognize when we need to change our play, or be ready for a “blitz” in our own efforts. This recognition will not only help us to me successful in our Christian life, it will allow us to live our life on the offensive instead of the defensive.

READ 1 John 2:15-17

Have you ever noticed that our society readily accepts certain attitudes, perspectives, and values as the standard for how life is best lived? These values arise in a subtle fashion, forming attitudes in our minds about sex, money, relationships and other key areas of our lives. We usually see these values emerging in many segments of our society such as magazine advertisement, TV commercials, TV shows, movies, music, books, etc. For example, if you take a few minutes watching any popular situation comedy on TV, you will most likely observe the value that premarital sex or extramarital sex is an accepted way to happiness. You may notice the same about cursing or taking the Lord’s name in vain, the numbers of dumb or absent fathers, ineptness of people of faith, bumbling teachers or administrators, or the attitude and acceptance of drugs and the drug culture. These values and ideas don’t exist by accident. There is an unseen world that parallels our physical world, generating these philosophies. Many Christians overlook this reality. But just by observing the state of our families, many of our churches and communities, it’s obvious that something is at work against God’s people. Many cannot pinpoint what or who the source is.

In the first twenty years of an American kid’s life, he or she will see something approaching one million television commercials at the rate of about a thousand a week. This makes the TV commercial the most voluminous information source in the education of your child. These commercials are about products only in the sense that the story of Jonah is about the anatomy of whales. A commercial teaches a child three interesting things. The first is that all problems are resolvable. The second is that all problems are resolvable quickly. And the third is that all problems are resolvable quickly through the agency of some technology. It may be a drug. It may be a detergent. It may be an airplane or some piece of machine, like an automobile or computer. The essential message is that the problems that beset people–whether it is lack of self-confidence or boredom or even money problems–are entirely solvable if only we will allow ourselves to be ministered to by a technology. Commercials teach these important themes through parables. In eight to ten seconds, the middle part comes, which is Hawaii or a new car. Then there’s a moral. The moral is nailed down at the end, where we are shown what happens if a person follows this advice. And the actor, of course, is usually ecstatic. One has simply got to wonder what the effects are on a young adult who has seen a million of these little vignettes. One has to ask, “What is being taught?”
Neill Postman

This unseen world is similar to the presence of unseen germs before the invention of the microscope. Doctors knew something was wreaking havoc with people’s lives, but they didn’t know what it was. As a result, they experienced great difficulty trying to find cures and medicines that would treat and heal illness and disease. They were trying to treat something they couldn’t understand or cure. Unless we become aware of this unseen world and seek to understand its strategies, our attempts to combat are likely to be futile.

John gives us a picture of that battle which many Christians ignore or unknowingly embrace. Let’s look at that now. In 1 John 2:15-17, John uses the Greek word kosmos that is translated “world”. This word refers to an order, a system or an organization. In the New Testament, this word is used to describe a system that is designed to turn people’s hearts against God and His truth.

The world’s system consists of all the attitudes, perspectives, and thoughts we often find commonplace in the workplace and the home. It seems so natural and logical and the right way to go. It was that way with me and Multiculturalism in my classes. I had unknowingly bought into it and taught it. It was not until I read a book by Chuck Colson called How Now Shall We Live did I encounter this.

We need to understand that if taken to its logical extreme, going with the flow of the world’s way of thinking will result in problems such as chemical dependency, poor financial decisions, moral failures and the destruction of families. In other words, the purpose of the world’s system is the destruction of those God loves most.

The world never delivers on its false promises. That is why vs. 15 tells us not to love the world. He doesn’t mean the people – he is referring to the values and assumptions we find at work in the world’s system. Unfortunately, too many Christians think they can have both. Can you imagine the result if I came home and told Karen that I really enjoy spend time with another women and I wanted her to be happy about it? She would no doubt develop God’s attitude toward lukewarm-ness with me! We cannot do both!

In verse 16, John reveals three elements at work in the world’s system. He puts “everything in the world” into three categories:

1. Cravings of sinful man – internal desires that control the words we say, what we see with our eyes, and the desires we shouldn’t pursue. The world would have us feed those desires, whether they are sexual pleasure, luxury, possessions, expensive food, etc.

2. Lust of the eyes – desire for accumulation of things we do not need. This is the danger of window shopping! We may not even know we needed something until we saw it. The end result is buying things we don’t need, which results in materialism and debt. Lust of the eyes is not just limited to shopping. It also affects men in the area of pornography. Men are visual in nature and we men need to be especially careful in this area.

3. The boasting of what he has and does – the tendency to hinge our identity on our profession or our possessions INSTEAD OF WHO WE ARE IN CHRIST. We love the world we define our lives by what we do and by what we own. In its original usage, the word boasting referred to a man who claimed to be important because he had achieved so much, when in fact, he really had done very little.

Fortune magazine quotes a comment made by billionaire H. Ross Perot: “Guys, just remember, if you get real lucky, if you make a lot of money, if you go out and buy a lot of stuff–it’s gonna break. You got your biggest, fanciest mansion in the world. It has air conditioning. It’s got a pool. Just think of all the pumps that are going to go out. Or go to a yacht basin any place in the world. Nobody is smiling, and I’ll tell you why. Something broke that morning. The generator’s out; the microwave oven doesn’t work. … Things just don’t mean happiness.”

READ Psalm 20:7

Let me quote the Joker in the movie Batman, “Who ya gonna trust?”
God is not the source of the world’s system. John says it “comes not from the Father.” In fact the “world and its desires pass away”. They are temporary. God is eternal. He reminds us to do the will of God – the only thing that will last forever. We are reminded of this at funerals. The only values that really matter are the ones that transcend this life into eternity. That is why we are called to live “in the world, but not of it”.

When I was a kid year ago I had to fix my bike. I came to that left peddle I had to get loose, and the more I worked to loosen that peddle the tighter it seemed to get. My dad came over and saw my plight. He looked for a moment or two and said, “Oh, this has a left-handed thread. It’s a reverse screw. You have to tighten or loosen it going in the opposite direction.”
There’s a sense in which all the Bible is kind of a reverse screw. Everything in the culture that seems right, in the Bible comes out wrong. The way up is the way down. The way to spiritual wealth is to acknowledge your spiritual poverty. The way to live is to die. The way to rule is to serve. I mean the screw just doesn’t work right.
But unless you understand the reverse nature of the screw, you never do anything. The more you try to work it according to the values of the culture, the tighter the screw gets and the less you accomplish.
The whole Bible is that way. Everything is upside down. When you come with the values of the culture and read the New Testament, it seems crazy. God’s always doing that.

We must make some proactive steps in resisting the world’s value system. When making decisions, we need to examine our presuppositions and compare them to the truth of God’s Word. Otherwise, we will make wrong choices.

There are also some other things we can do

1. Learn to recognize the world’s values and attitudes. You can do this by keeping a discerning eye on the TV shows you may watch or movies you see. Without realizing it, you can allow the world’s value system to permeate your mind on a regular basis. The use of TV Guardian helped me with this. Before installing this, I was unaware of the amount of profanity I allowed into my house.

2. Learn contentment in your spending habits by developing a monthly budget. You have two choices concerning the way you handle your money. You can spend your time wondering where it went, or spend your time planning where it goes. A budget is nothing more than planned spending. Knowing this in advance will help to fight against the “lust of the eyes”.

3. Read God’s Word daily to reestablish your identity in Christ. Ground your identity in being a loved and valued child of God, instead of your possessions or profession. Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one, and Helen Keller is the other.

The comedy film Cool Runnings is about the first Jamaican bobsled team to go to the Olympics. John Candy plays a former American gold medalist who becomes a coach to the Jamaican team. The players grow to like the American coach but later in the story, the coach’s dark history comes out. In an Olympics following his gold medal performance, he broke the rules by weighting the U.S. sled, bringing disgrace on himself and his team. One of the Jamaican bobsledders could not understand why anyone who had already won a gold medal would cheat.
Finally he nervously asked Candy to explain. “I had to win,” said the coach. “I learned something. If you are not happy WITHOUT a gold medal, you won’t be happy WITH it.”

READ Romans 12:2