Are you fully committed to follow Jesus Christ and not look back?
The minister was known for his long sermons. And about the middle of his sermon, he noticed a man get up and leave before the conclusion of the service. Afterwards the minister approached the man and he asked him where he had gone. He said, "I went to get a haircut." The minister said, "Well, why didn't you do that before you came to service?" The man said, "Because I didn't need one then." So I don't want to see anybody going out for a haircut.
If you've been in church for a number of years, you no doubt have witnessed a sad event. A few members, you look around, are no longer with us. Granted, some have died; others have moved out of the area. But it just boils down to the fact that some are no longer with us—they've quit on God. Now every baptized member's been in a counseling session with a minister of God, and they've been shown the obligations and the commitments of a Christian, and they've counted the cost and knew what God expected of them after baptism. And they had fully determined in their mind to follow Christ, putting Him ahead of father, putting Christ ahead of mother, daughter, son, job, trial or test. They said in effect, "Yes, Lord I'll follow you 100 % all the way". They made the commitment that once having put their hand to the plow, they would never look back. Looking back leads to drawing back. The plowman must look forward and not back and just plow a straight line. So, if you need a title to the sermon today — Is Your Hand Still On the Plow? Is your hand still on the plow? That's a question for all of us to think about. Do we still have a firm grip, both hands on the plow, looking forward and not looking backward? Do we have the same dedication; do we have the same determination and drive that we had when those counting the cost scriptures were explained to us before our baptism?
Luke 9:57-58 Luke 9:57-58  And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said to him, Lord, I will follow you wherever you go.
 And Jesus said to him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay his head.
American King James Version×Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go." 58 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."
So, Jesus was telling this individual it wouldn't be easy to be a Christian to follow Christ.
Luke 9:59-61 Luke 9:59-61  And he said to another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
 Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go you and preach the kingdom of God.
 And another also said, Lord, I will follow you; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
American King James Version×Then He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."
60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."
61 And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house."
And a lot of times that would happen, you start reading God's literature and you go back and start talking to some of your relatives and they try to talk you out of it.
Luke 9:62 Luke 9:62And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Christ wants total commitment. So, some have not only looked back, they've taken both hands off of the plow, they dropped the plow lines, and walked off leaving the mule standing in the field. Why? Turn to Luke 14, verse 26 — these are some of the scriptures that are terms of baptism that are read to everyone that is baptized.
Luke 14:26 Luke 14:26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
American King James Version× "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.
"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father ..." That means love less by comparison, He needs to be number one. You don't put anything before Christ or God. So Jesus says He's to be number one.
Luke 14:27-28 Luke 14:27-28  And whoever does not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?
American King James Version× And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—
If you're going to build a tower, or building or any kind of project, you have to take into consideration what the cost is. How much it's going to cost — can you afford it? Can you pay for it? So he said,
Luke 14:29-31 Luke 14:29-31  Lest haply, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,
 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
 Or what king, going to make war against another king, sits not down first, and consults whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand?
American King James Version× lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish'? 31 Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?
So he's got a standing army of ten thousand, the enemy's got twenty thousand so he's outgunned, outnumbered two to one, he's supposed to consider can he finish the battle-will he win the battle?
Luke 14:32 Luke 14:32Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an ambassador, and desires conditions of peace.
American King James Version× Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.
He sends out this group, and he says, "Let's make a deal. Let's not have a war here."
Luke 14:33 Luke 14:33So likewise, whoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be my disciple.
American King James Version× So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.
So those are the terms that were explained to us for baptism, and the purpose of this sermon is not to belittle or ridicule anyone who's left God's church. But it's to show the attitudes that have taken some out of the church over the years, and we need to be on guard against these attitudes and not let them happen to us. The Bible tells us Satan is a roaring lion; he's out to devour everyone. He wants to take your crown, my crown; he doesn't want any of us to be in God's Kingdom. So in preparing this sermon, I tried to think of some of the reasons a person would leave church, to quit on God. Some of the reasons how they would motivate, how they'd reason in their minds to justify their actions, and hopefully it'll motivate us to get a firmer grip on the plow and never look back. So I've listed seven attitudes; seven ways of thinking that over the years have caused some to leave God's church.
1. Some people cannot accept what they cannot change. You have trials, you have tests, maybe Sabbath problem, Holy Day problem with your employer or church or the neighbors and you just couldn't handle it. You maybe have employer persecution, unconverted mate, maybe the death of a loved one, sickness and they could not accept what they couldn't change-and the hand starts to slip from the plow. I've grouped these under trials and tests — so what problem do we have that Christ cannot solve? If a person quits church, is it because they failed the test, or was the trial too great, or was the person too weak? It's neither one - the trial too great nor the person too weak.
I Cor. 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
Everyone is going to have problems, trials and tests. We're promised trials in this life, but the thing is, God is faithful and He won't permit the trial to become too great. So to answer the question, is the trial too great or is the person too weak — no the trial was not too great or you're too weak. The person falls away because he simply does not believe God , he doesn't believe God is faithful, he doesn't believe His promises in the Bible and it boils down to - you leave, it's a lack of faith. You can have many excuses people put up, but it's a lack of faith. Now if you're going through a trial, it's absolute proof that you can go through with it. The fact that you're having a trial is proof that you can go through with it — it shows God's confidence in you. God is not out to destroy us, He's out to help us and the key to peace of mind is to accept what you cannot change and leave it in God's hands. You cannot change another person against his will, or her will. Can't do that. You cannot change what is right and what is wrong. You cannot change the fact that a loved one has died. You simply accept what you cannot change and put the rest in God's hands. And acceptance, when you accept those and leave it to God, acceptance will stop a lot of hurt in this life. Philippians 4:13 Philippians 4:13I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
American King James Version×, that's a memory verse but let's look at it anyway. This is the way to escape a trial. Paul says:
The way to escape a trial is to bear it, not get away from it. And the trial is proof positive that you can go through with the trial. You believe God and do your part, and you can endure the trial and you'll make it through the trial. God promises those things. Those are proof positive in the Bible and we have to believe those. We sing in our hymnal, "Onward Christian Soldiers". Do we believe the words? One line says, "We have Christ's own promise which will never fail." Do we believe that?
2. The second reason some have left church is because they start looking to the physical and neglect the spiritual-prayer, Bible study, fasting, and meditation. Now for an example, let's use this as a hypothetical thing — your neighbor, the Joneses, he gets a new car. And you're keeping up with the Joneses so what do you do? You go get a new car. And you just about caught up to the Joneses and what do they do? They refinance and take a vacation to Europe. And then some have felt that , well they needed God's tithe, they needed that 10% more than God did and they reasoned in their mind perhaps, "If it wasn't for this tithing burden, I could go to Europe also". And so what'd they do? They lower their eyes from Christ and see man and decide, this is the work of men. God owns everything; He does not need our money. God does not need us? We need Him. The person begins to covet things and he gets in debt and he breaks God's law, breaks the tenth commandment; he thinks he needs that tithe money to pay his bills. Well, tithing is a Godly principle; tithing is a privilege when you see what's done with it, and it's a command also.
3. The third thing people have left church over — Galatians 6 verse 9 & 10.
Galatians 6:9-10 Galatians 6:9-10  And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith.
American King James Version×And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
We have to endure to the end, you can't give up. Notice, do good especially to those who are of the household of faith, God's people. So some have left church, they grow weary in well doing. They felt they were overworked; maybe they felt God wasn't blessing them for all their good deeds they were doing, serving the brethren, fasting, giving of their time and they needed the praises of men. As we say, "strokes from the folks". They needed strokes from the folks, and when you're serving people, doing God's will helping others you're laying up treasures in heaven and our reward comes when Jesus Christ returns. And God says for us not to become weary in well doing and faint in our minds and give up. The Bible tells us that we're saved by grace, not works, but works determine how great your reward will be and your reward will be when Jesus Christ returns.
4. The fourth reason some have left church I call — people problems. Some have been offended, feelings hurt, real or imagined. They felt maybe overlooked; their talent was going unheeded, unappreciated, not recognized. Maybe they thought in their mind they should be a deacon or deaconess, whatever the case may be. You remember the old song a few years ago — "The Games People Play"? Well, people play the blame game, and we've all played the blame game at some times in our life. Some people play it every day. Psychiatrists and psychologists call it — projection. You project your shortcomings, your failures onto other people. That's called the blame game. The rules are simple in the blame game — just one rule: blame the other guy. Just one cardinal rule-blame the other guy. Little kids play this game. Adults play it. A three year old child falls off a chair; he gets up and hits the chair with his fist, "Bad ole chair." A grown man tries to start his car and it won't start, he gets out and kicks the grill in. Baseball player strikes out, he throws the bat to the ground and looks at it in disgust — it was the bat's fault. John 9 let's begin in verse 1. The blame game — it's not a new game, it's an old game. The disciples played the game.
John 9:1-2 John 9:1-2  And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
American King James Version×Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
So you see, the disciples, they had to blame somebody. Did the man sin? Did he cause his blindness or was it something his parents did — in his genes maybe.
John 9:3 John 9:3Jesus answered, Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
American King James Version× Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.
That man was blind from birth so that when Christ came by and He healed him God could be glorified and Jesus Christ could be glorified. That was the purpose and Christ said:
John 9:4-5 John 9:4-5  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work.
 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
American King James Version×I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
And you can read the rest of it, He took some dirt and a little spittle and made a kind of a paste and anointed the fellow's eyes and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam and he was healed. So anytime something goes wrong, people need to fix the blame on someone or something. And the disciples wanted to know who was at fault — who sinned — the man, or his parents. Someone had to be guilty. The blame game is an injurious game. The blame game never heals, it always hurts. The blame game never unites, it always divides; it never builds, it always tears apart and it never solves problems, it compounds the problem. So you see Christ never played the blame game. In response to the disciples questions who's to blame, who sinned, Christ said in essence forget the blame game fellows and ask how can we help this man. How can we improve his situation; how can we make it better. And He did make it better, He healed him. Some have left church over the years blaming others for their short comings, blaming other members, even blaming the ministers in some cases. The blame game is a copout. It's an excuse to cover up our own deficiencies that we're unwilling to admit and face up to. And man is never a failure until he blames someone else. And Satan is the author of the game. Satan is the author of the blame game and he thought that he should have more than the earth to rule. So he rebelled and he tried to take over heaven and God's throne and he was cast back down to earth. Satan then taught Adam and Eve the blame game.
Genesis 3:8-13 Genesis 3:8-13  And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
 And the LORD God called to Adam, and said to him, Where are you?
 And he said, I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.
 And he said, Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded you that you should not eat?
 And the man said, The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
 And the LORD God said to the woman, What is this that you have done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
American King James Version×And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?"
10 So he said, "I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself."
11 And He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?"
12 Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate."
13 And the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."
Notice what Adam said. Adam started the blame game, he's blaming God. Eve played the blame game too. Well, God told them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and Adam blamed God, he blamed Eve; Eve blamed the snake and the old saying we've heard many times "The snake didn't have a leg to stand on". Some of you evidently haven't heard that before. The solution to the blame game is found in I John 1:9-10 John 1:9-10  That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world.
 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
American King James Version×.
I John 1:9-10 John 1:9-10  That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world.
 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
American King James Version×If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
So we see the solution of the blame game is the confession game. You confess your sins to God, you repent of them and He forgives us. We admit our guilt, we confess our sins to God and we don't try to justify our sins and blame others.
5. Now the fifth reason I've got listed here is guilt. Some left over guilt. Some thought that their sins were too great. They thought they sinned, God couldn't forgive them, and Christ couldn't forgive them. They thought they were too great to be covered by the blood of Jesus Christ and they thought that maybe they had committed the unpardonable sin. If you're worried about if you've committed the unpardonable sin, it's proof that you have not. Our sins, when you repent of them are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ and Christ was the one that was nailed to the stake so that we could stop nailing ourselves to the stake. They nailed Christ to the stake so we could stop nailing ourselves to the stake. And Jesus took the punishment for our sins, our shortcomings, our failures. But this does not give us a license to sin and if we slip and come short of the mark, we have an advocate before God the Father. Jesus Christ - we pray in His name and He takes the case before God; He's our advocate, He pleads our case for us.
You're not condemned if Christ is living in us and if you go to God, repent of your sins, ask God for His mercy and get up from that prayer totally free of sin and rededicate yourself to doing what is right. Too many people in the past have become their own judge, they've become their own jury, and they've become the prosecutor and the executioner. And it serves no good whatsoever to go over past mistakes if you've truly repented of them. Nothing defeats you more than recalling past sins, shameful deeds that you've repented of doing. God forgives and forgets — can't we all do the same? Psalm 103 is some of the most inspiring Scripture for a person who has repented to read and think about; just remember these:
Psalms 103:9-10 Psalms 103:9-10  He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
 He has not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
American King James Version× He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever.10He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities.
And can't we all say that we're sure glad of that.
Psalms 103:11-12 Psalms 103:11-12  For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
 As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
American King James Version×For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;12As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As far as the east is from the west — this goes out infinity. What is it Kippling says, "East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet?", or something like that. But He's removed our sins as far as the east is from the west — you just keep going.
Psalms 103:13-14 Psalms 103:13-14  Like as a father pities his children, so the LORD pities them that fear him.
 For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.
American King James Version×As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him.14For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
And verse 17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children's children,
So God has forgiven you, now you have to forgive yourself; exonerate yourselves from the unwise decisions you made and maybe the foolish or cruel things you may have spoken or acts that you committed. Your sins have been forgiven and you're not the same person that you were before you got down on your knees in a sincere prayer of repentance. You're not the same person if you've truly repented, you get up and you're washed clean as the snow. Do you remember what Jesus said to the woman that was taken in adultery? He looked around and said "Where are your accusers? Where are they?" And she said, "I don't see any Lord" and He said "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more." That's the same thing He wants us to do. If we have truly repented of it, go and sin no more and you'll slip again, we all slip and then you've got the same procedure all over again. But God is merciful and when we repent, He'll forgive us.
6. The sixth thing that people have left church over is self pity. Self pity — do you remember the old song "Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, think I'll go and eat some worms"? Remember that song? I hope it doesn't spoil your lunch or anything. Elijah, one of the greatest prophets that ever lived, he experienced this feeling. Pity parties setting under the tree feeling sorry for self, under the juniper tree. King David, a man after God's own heart, in Psalms 73 was lamenting the fact that the wicked prospered and he was having such a hard time. You know self pity is a temptation for everyone if you're going through a trial, some test or some emotionally shattering experience — the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, some financial disaster or setback, broken marriage, some incurable disease or some other personal catastrophe- self pity is just a natural thing that seems like it's the natural thing to do. But self pity can do more harm to you than the things that actually happen to you. It can harm you more than the things that actually happen to you. Self pity opens the door to depression. You close the door on self pity and you shut out the major cause of depression. Now no one wants to be around a whiner or someone that always a crybaby, a bawler, negative all the time, always complaining. And people will avoid that type of individual and even in the world and some in the church. They're always complaining, feeling sorry for themselves and they'll in turn leave and say, "I never found any love in church". Self pity is nothing but pure selfishness. It's simply centering on one's miserable self; seeing everything that is wrong, nothing that is right. Self pity is 100% selfishness.
John 16:33 John 16:33These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
American King James Version×These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
That's a pretty dogmatic statement — in the world you're going to have tribulation but be of good cheer, don't let it get you down, I have overcome the world. Christ never promised us a rose garden. He promised us some heartache along the way. He never said you wouldn't have any problems, He said you're going to have some problems; you're going to have some tribulations and trouble along the way in our Christian walk.
The present world is our preparation area. This world is our training ground; it's our proving ground and trials develop character and obstacles provide us with greater opportunity to develop more Godly character. You've got some obstacle and you overcome it, you know that God's working with you and helping you and it gives you more, greater opportunity to develop Godly character.
And we need to focus our attention on what we have, not looking back, not what you've lost. Focus your attention on what you have not what you've lost; not what you don't have or what might have been. If you focus on your lack, your loss, or your limitations you'll feel sorry for yourself 24 hours a day. You know the old little phrase, "I complained that I had no shoes until I saw a man that had no feet". There's someone always worse off than we are in this world and we need to take inventory of what we have. We have our health, we have a job, we have a wife or husband (whatever the case may be), children, we have a home, we have friends, we have God's Word, we have God's promises, we have God's people, we have God's promise for eternal life in God's Kingdom. That's a promise.
Years ago in Decatur, Illinois, there was a man (he was a boy at that time) and he was interested in photography. And he skimped and he saved all his little nickels and dimes that he had. He wanted to get a book on photography and finally he had the money to order the book. And the company made a mistake and sent him a book on ventriloquism. He didn't even know what it was, let alone how to spell it. And he could put the book down, he could put it aside, he could nurse the disappointment and feel sorry for himself; pity party. But instead, the man began studying the book and he learned how to throw his voice and eventually he got a wooden dummy and he built a great career and became known as the best ventriloquist of his time. And you're all way ahead of me — you know it was Charlie McCartney. The dummy is Charlie McCartney. Edgar Bergen was the man and Charlie McCartney was the dummy, let's set the record straight. See what he did — he looked at what he had and not at what he'd lost. He made use of what he had and he didn't look at what he lost.
You know the apostle Paul, he could have been discouraged and down in the mouth with all the problems. Let's just look at a few of the things — 2nd Corinthians 11. A lot of people, sometimes we think that we have a lot of problems, we've got it tough. Well just look back at Paul; he was living back when he didn't have all of these things we have — cars, television, all of this business. He was out doing God's work.
Ok, let's jump over to verse 13 there. What he was doing was they were talking about the other ministers in the area and he said they were false apostles, deceitful workers and so forth. And so he was giving a little resume of what he's done. He said:
2nd Corinthians 11:23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.
Now, there are some things you could really get discouraged and feel sorry for yourself if this happened to you.
2nd Corinthians 11:24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.
That's 39 stripes times 5 - it'd be 195 stripes.
2nd Corinthians 11:25-28 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
He had all of these problems and he still had to take care of all of the churches that he raised up. So Paul had a lot of problems and he never felt sorry for himself. Let's look quickly at another incident of this. Turn to Acts 16. You're all familiar with this story — we'll just hit the highlights.
Acts 16:16-18 Acts 16:16-18  And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show to us the way of salvation.
 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
American King James Version×, 22-23 Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation." 18And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And he came out that very hour. ...22Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. 23And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely.
Midnight, the earthquake split open the cell doors, the chains fell off — anyway the whole thing was illegal; they were Roman citizens. And so then after they found that out, they wanted Paul and Silas to get out of town. Now, notice verse 40 -
Acts 16:40 Acts 16:40And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brothers, they comforted them, and departed.
American King James Version× So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.
They comforted them, they encouraged them. They'd been in jail in Philippi. They'd been beaten, chained up in an old wet cell, probably with vermin; there might have been roaches, rats and everything. The Roman prison wasn't too nice of a place to be. So they went to Lydia's house to visit. They visited other Christians; that's what they're thinking about. That's amazing, if you put yourself in that situation — you go to Lydia's house after that and you say, "Lydia, look at my back — look at the welts on me. Wow, get me to bed; do you have any olive oil you can rub on that thing? I had it rough there." They (Paul and Silas) didn't have any time for self pity, they were concerned with the brethren so they went to Lydia's house; they knew they would be there. They exhorted them, they encouraged them and then it says they departed. They went on to get on with the work. So the solution to self pity is to give yourself in service to others. Serve some other people. You know Mr. Lovelady mentioned the Passover; washing feet is humble. You want to get you mind off self? Find some feet to wash. Go serve other people. If you get your mind off yourself, you won't have time to feel sorry for yourself.
7. Some have left church over their emotions; negative thoughts, doubts, suspicions and bad attitudes. Satan is the one that broadcasts doom; he broadcasts gloom, and bad attitudes. People get upset and they get discouraged and they want to give up and quit. A person with a positive attitude may be knocked down and never beaten. It says in Proverbs a just man falls seven times and rises up again. The old saying, "Where there's the will, there's the way." People never achieve because they give up. A positive man is a high achiever because he never gives up. You know, I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me, we read that earlier. The power to choose your attitude is yours. The human mind is the most awe inspiring creation of God. The mind stands above all miracles of creation — it's fantastic. Your mind you have a will, you have the feeling, emotions, feelings, love emotions. You have the ability to reason. You have the ability to reach beyond your imagination. You can reach out and think how things can be; put it all together and reason and imagine things. You have five physical senses-see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. You have a recorder of memory. You have a subconscious mind and thoughts and when we consider the human mind, we have to stand in utter amazement.
Who controls your mind? Who controls your attitude? You do. We do and God has given you the complete control over your mind and the attitude that a person chooses is their choice. You have control over your mind and whatever attitude you choose, it's your choice. Negative thoughts such as jealousy, envy, rage, anger, resentment, hate are all disease producing thoughts. They produce ulcers, high blood pressure, stroke; negative thoughts make you sick and they can make others sick of you too. No, God wants us to be optimistic. You know He doesn't want us to look negative. I read one time the definition of an optimist is that he says he thinks the candy bar is as big as the wrapper. (laughter) I knew you were out there. And your optimist thinks that the bag of potato chips is filled to the brim until he lets the air out. Someone once said, "The tea kettle can sing though it's in hot water up to its nose." Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." So you need positive thinking. The Bible is written from a positive view.
Now we've covered some of the reasons that people have left church over the years.
• Not being able to accept what they cannot change
• Neglecting the spiritual and looking to the physical
• Growing weary in well-doing
• People problems
• Guilt — cannot overcome their sins and give up
• Self pity
• Negative thoughts, doubts and suspicions
There are other reasons that people have quit over the years but it all boils down to a lack of faith. It boils down when you quit that you may make other excuses but it boils down to lack of faith. You lack faith in God and faith in His promises. You don't believe His promises or you wouldn't leave. We need the drive; we need the determination, the endurance and dedication to endure until the end. And we need to realize that we are in a battle. We're battling human nature, we're battling the world, and we're battling Satan. The three S's — self, society and Satan. That's who the battle is with. Never settle for defeat. Its God's will that you win the victory and with Christ's help you can gain the victory. Never think defeat. Never admit defeat. Never settle for defeat. People are defeated when they do not have a firm commitment. You need that firm commitment and once you're committed you need the determination to stick with that commitment until you achieve the goal — God's Kingdom and eternal life.
Let's look at a few more encouraging Scriptures and positive statements. These are the things we need to think on when we have any trials or problems.
Romans 8:18 Romans 8:18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
American King James Version×For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
What we're going through now is nothing compared to what we are going to have in the future. So we need to get our mind on the big picture; the fantastic rewards for remaining faithful and enduring until the end. We haven't seen; we haven't heard about what's even imagined — let's look at that. If your mind is rooted in these Scriptures you won't ever quit.
1Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written:
"Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him."
And how do you love God? You keep His commandments. That's how you show your love. So what we need to do is get our mind on the big picture, the fantastic rewards that God has in store for us in His Kingdom and probably, this is my favorite Scripture. Ya'll know what it is — you don't know what my favorite Scripture is but you know what this is...you will as soon as I find it here.
Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
American King James Version×And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.
To them who are the called, you're called. God looked down and said, "There's one there. I want that person in my Kingdom. I want that one. I've got this job all picked out for this individual and He's called us and all things are going to work for our good. We're called according to His purpose. He has something worked out for us and that is a Scripture you can bank on if you get discouraged or anything happens; if you don't remember anything but Romans 8:28 Romans 8:28And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
American King James Version×. Get that firmly in your mind. Like I say, it's probably my favorite Scripture. And if we truly believe this Scripture, you'll come through any trial, any persecution, and any test that befalls you in this life. If you just know what God promised, everything is going to work out. Everything is going to work out for your good if you've been called and you love God. You try, you might slip, you fall sometimes but you repent and keep trying. You love God, you're trying and your keeping His commandments and you show that love by keeping His commandments and the Apostle Peter gives us sober warning over in Peter — He said that judgment now is on the house of God. If we're a baptized member, we're in a period of judgment now. This is our time and this is our chance if we're baptized. We either make it or we don't make it — that's pretty blunt the way Peter made it. A sobering thought.
So we need the determination, we need the commitment that we're going to not let anything take our crown and take us out of God's church. You know some people in the world, some children in the world never go to bed with a full stomach at night. It's just heart rendering when you see this on the news. You see little people starving, flies on them, diseases, the wars, hatred, and the oppression and murders and drugs and violence we see in this world. And as an individual, we cannot really do much about it — we can pray about it. We can pray that God's Kingdom will come. That's what we should do, and we know that is the solution to these problems. But when we become a spirit being we'll have the opportunity then to eliminate all of these problems and teach these people the way of God is love, His mercy and His peace. And these are the things that we need to think on and not our trials and problems we have in this life.
The bottom line is, I mentioned it before — if a person leaves church it's a matter of lack of faith. He may come up with a lot of different answers of why he left but it's a lack of faith. They lacked the faith to believe all the positive promises in God's Word-the Bible. And we all need to grow in faith. Let's go back to Luke 9:62 Luke 9:62And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×— that's where we started.
Luke 9:62 Luke 9:62And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
God and Christ want total commitment. We put our hand to the plow; the plowman looks forward, he doesn't look backwards. If he's looking backwards he's making a crooked furrow and then the next line has to be crooked and he's messed up the whole field. You look forward, you don't look backwards. Lot's wife looked back. We need to be looking forward, not looking back. When you look back you're yearning and sometimes it leads you to going back. Maybe you don't go back but you're really not fully committed. He wants us to look forward and not look back.
So the question is — are our hands still firmly affixed to the plow? Eyes looking forward to the goal and your feet walking the path that will lead you into the Kingdom of God. What a tremendous future God has in store for those who love God and endure until the end.