How can we live day to day, as we are called to do, in the midst of a world whose values and standards of morality differ greatly than what is written for us to follow in the Bible?
Well, good afternoon everyone. On God's Sabbath we gather once again to give honor and glory to our Heavenly Father, and to Jesus Christ, our wonderful kinsmen Redeemer, our Lord and Savior. We continue on in our series of sermons preparing for the Passover, which will be here before we know it, and what I've chosen to do today is to cover a topic, that really we need to understand in light of what Jesus stated in His own prayer to God. This was gone into quite in depth on Passover night, but we're going to take a segment of it out and look and see something very special of what Christ stated and what you and I need to be mindful of. As things move toward the end of man's control and days of rule on the earth, we are told in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 18, Verse 4, God gives a warning to this world, and especially to the Israelites who've been all mixed up in this end-time conglomeration called Babylon the Great. He warns them, He says "Come out of her, my people…come out of her my people that you…do what? Not receive of her plagues."
In other words, God is going to plague this earth in the years to come…He's going to punish mankind because He has made it very clear…He says, Vengeance is mine and I will repay." So, He is just waiting for the appropriate time, and then He will do what He has to do, just like He did in the days of Noah, if you remember. He gave, while Noah was constructing the ark, He gave mankind 120 years in which to turn it around, and get their house in order. 120 years went by, and they still didn't get the picture. What was developed in those closing years of the human experience in Noah's days? God looked upon the earth, and He says, "And behold, the wickedness of mankind was very great." And even went so far as He said that the imagination of their thoughts, the way they think, was only evil continually. That's all they thought about, evil things that were contrary to the ways of God that were definitely shown in the life of a man named Noah, who was a preacher of righteousness, who warned those people. And the words were out, that you know, "Hey, we're going to get flooded…Ha, ha, ha…what's a flood? - Never heard of a flood before." So people could laugh and they could joke, and they could make fun until the day Noah was in the ark, the door was closed…
And then all of a sudden, all hell literally broke loose. And those people were flushed away, because of their evil conduct and behavior.
Later we have the account of what God's indictment was against a place called Sodom and Gomorrah…all written for our learning. But people persist and say, well, that may happen to them, but it won't happen to me. So they always make excuses for things, and generations down through time fail to remember that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. How He would address a problem back then and how He would address it now, and how He will address it in the future, is the same. Because, He doesn't change…His character is rock-solid.
Well, it got me to thinking on something that Jesus spoke about in the Book of John 17 – Chapter 17. If you'll join me there please, turn to the Book of John, Chapter 17. This has been referred to as, really, the real Lord's Prayer by many, because it was Jesus' last prayer in which He spoke to the Heavenly Father and made certain requests and certain things spelled out in specifics. And if you begin in Verse 14, and join me there, you'll see the following - He's talking to the Father in heaven, and He says:
John 17:14 John 17:14I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
American King James Version×"I have given them your word; and the world has hated them…so by breaking these things down, we recognize something, that the world is not in step with the things of God, and that's what He's meaning when He's saying, it hates them – they don't like to play that kind of… "I've got to do what? I've got to obey God?" No, they want to play God, rather than obey God. And He says, because they are not of the world.
Now that's very important for us to keep in mind. Those of us who are called in our lifetime, as past generations have been, and others may be still yet future before the final end comes, we are not of this world. I sometimes think we forget that, and that is something God has commanded of us. He says, through Jesus here, He says, He gave us His word, we've been called to the knowledge of His truth…we know who the real Jesus is of the Bible. Then it goes on to say that the world doesn't buy into it. It hates the things of God when you really get down to the specifics - they'll always find reasons to fight it, to resist it and not to obey it. Now God goes on to say: They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
So Jesus came into the world, He lived in the world, but He was not of the world. You and I have come into the world, we live in the world, but now through a conversion process, we are not of the world. At one time we were of the world, and we played the game the way the world does – we were just like everybody else, but God did something in the process. And notice Verse 15 – and this is very important. He says:
Verse 15: "I pray that You should not take them out of the world, - Oh my! Everybody wants to get out of here, because they don't like it here…they want to go to heaven…but again, not everybody's volunteering! Here it is, it says…but here's His prayer: "I don't want you to take them out of the world, - why is that? Because there are lessons to be learned in the world that we have got to master now, in this lifetime. This world is a training ground for future service in the kingdom of God. And He goes on to say: "but that You should – do what? "I pray that you should keep them from the evil that is in the world…or as some translations say: "the evil one."
Now go on and notice again:
Verse 16: "They…those who are called, those who are converted to God's truth…are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
He goes on to say:
Verse 17: "Sanctify them…which means, set them apart for a Holy purpose…and so we have our marching orders. This is our mission – we've been set apart for a Holy purpose…through your truth. And then He defines what truth is – your word is truth."
The word of God is absolute truth. And Verse 18:
Verse 18: "As you have sent Me into the world, even so I also send them into the world."
Ah! So here we are – this is why we're in the world…and notice what He goes on to say:
Verse 19: "For the sake that I sanctify Myself, that they might also be sanctified through the truth."
Verse 20: "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word;
In other words, as the disciples began to preach the gospel and the truth, and as it expanded down through time, it has come to our life time, we believe in the things that are spoken of here, in the Scriptures of Almighty God. And so, we have been sanctified by the truth of God, and God is doing what? He's doing a work in and through us, called conversion. And we also know, coupled with that, is the preaching of the gospel to this world, as a warning to them, to tell them, "Hey, as it was in the days of Noah, it's coming again." And that you'd better wake up, because time is of the essence. You're going to have to redeem the time, for the days are evil.
With that in mind, it crossed my thought patterns here that I'd like to ask you a question: "Have you ever felt out of place most of the time, or at work, or at school…you just felt like you were out of sync? Sometimes even in the midst of a lot of people you still felt alone?" Yeah, I think most of us have – we've all experienced that, and if you haven't, you might in the process of time. Sometimes you feel like, we're just out of sync with everybody else. Well, in the truer sense of the word, we are not unique. Everybody is going through that same sensation. What our uniqueness is in this way that all that who would be Godly feel the same pressures while living in society. Everyone feels these things. And we have to sort the wheat from the chaff, because bearing our cross, as it says in Matthew 6:24 Matthew 6:24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
American King James Version×, if you'll take a quick look there, you'll see Matthew 6:24 Matthew 6:24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
American King James Version×, what the Scripture reminds us here in the famous Sermon on the Mount, that:
Matthew 6:24 Matthew 6:24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
American King James Version× " No individual, no man, no woman can serve two masters, for either you will hate the one and love the other, or else you will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
In other words, you can't have one foot in God's church, His family, and the other foot in the world – it just will not work. So what I've entitled this sermon, something that I hope we can all really benefit from, because this is really profound, what Jesus said. He's called us out of this world, but yet we have to live in it, and so I've entitled this sermon, "Living in, But Not of the World" – "Living in, But Not of the World". And how can we then, as individuals, live day to day as we are called to do, in the midst of all these other people out there that are in the world that we come in contact with, who differ greatly in values, they differ greatly in standards of morality, and how do we do that? How do we present ourselves and interface with all these different people and different ways of life and thinking and things…how do we do that without becoming odd or "kookish"? Because when people don't agree with other people, they sometimes say, "Well, he's just a "kook" – he's just a nut." And they all have their assessment of things.
Jesus said you and I are ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was not a kook; He was not a weirdo – he was greatly beloved by the masses in His days. The ones that hated him the most were the religious leaders and others who were in control of the masses, but couldn't control Jesus Christ, because Jesus was under the authority of His Father. And you remember how He literally scared the daylights out of Pontius Pilate? He was standing there literally beaten to a pulp and that terrible beating that He took - and He's standing there and he says, you know, "You claim to be a king" … "Yes that's right; to this purpose I came into this world." And then he didn't say a whole lot, and afterwards he said: "Don't you answer me? Don't you know I have the power of life and death to crucify you?" And Jesus then blew him away with a "357 magnum" spiritually speaking, and He made the following statement: "You would have no power at all except it is granted by My Father in heaven." Wow! Nobody ever talked to Pilate like that before. "What kind of power are you talking about? You're not afraid to die? Most people are afraid to die. I threaten you with crucifixion and you say, ‘You have no power at all except it is given to me?'"
Well, that's because God is in charge, and what God is telling us very plainly, that it is very important for us to realize that as we live this life and interface with other individuals, there will be persecution that will take different forms in different cases. And we must be aware of it, because Jesus said, if they kept my sayings, they'll keep yours, but if they have not kept my sayings, they won't keep yours either. No matter how articulate you think you are, no matter how many times you tell them why "you shouldn't do this", why "you shouldn't do that", they'll just look at you and say, "Huh?" - They'll just think you're "off the wall." It is very important for us to realize: How do we live in, but not of the world? And that's what I want to address today.
So let's look at, first of all, the category that I see…the first category is: The Christians attitude toward the world. What is our attitude toward the world? What should we…how should we look at this world we live in? We can't get away from it – we're in it…Jesus said so. He said God would provide protection for us, and we can call upon God for His protection. But here's the admonition, and we have to always keep this rolling in our thinking: God has called up to come out of it – to come out of it. Meaning, we live in it physically, but mentally we are totally dedicated to a different proposition of living life. And what is that proposition? II Corinthians, Chapter 6:17. You read about that context and it tells you about how individuals are to interact – he says: What fellowship has, you know, that which is dealing with God's way as opposed to the ways of the world – Belial etc.? But he mentions there in Verse 17 the following – he says:
II Corinthians 6:17 "Come out from among them …
How do we come out? Does that mean we go live in a tower somewhere and get away from people? Is that what God wanted? Well that's not what Christ did. He interfaced with everybody – He was constantly on the move, and He was sociable with people. So what does it mean: "Come out from among them and be you separate…How do you do that? It's in the way you think – you don't think like other people think. You think the way God commands us to think, to be positive, to be cheerful; to be uplifting, as you're going to see and understand as we go through this topic. And notice what he said: "Do not touch what is unclean."
Now we have a doctrine in the Church of God…it's called "Clean and Unclean Meats." And we go through that, and have a booklet put out by the United Church of God for the benefit of individuals so that they can learn that God set parameters just even in our eating. He didn't want us to eat just anything that quivers and moves out there. There are a lot of things that you can eat, but it's not good for you – it will have consequences sooner or later. If it doesn't catch you now, it will catch you later. But God says there is an important way I want you to eat certain things, because this is what will strengthen you, this will keep you healthy, these will do the things that you need to have to have a good, healthy, physical life. All of us suffer, because why? We haven't had that kind of training in the past. We have learned since conversion came into our lives, and we've had to learn that we have to stay away from GMO products and things, and try to find the organic and the best things possible, and even when we eat have to pray and ask God to let the bad things pass through our systems so they don't have an impact on us. We have to trust God in all of these areas. But the old expression, "You are what you eat", is true. So God wants us to eat clean – not unclean.
That carries on into the spiritual dimension, and really helps us in the things that God is talking about – He wants us to have clean thoughts, not unclean thoughts.
He talks about in the Scriptures about individuals who had an unclean spirit. And you get around certain people and you hear the kind of language they speak, and it's unclean, it's filthy, it's four-letter words and things, and that's how righteous Lot was vexed, by the filthy speech of Sodom. And we live in a world…you're going to hear filthy speech all the time. You go to a movie…you've got to be extremely careful because if it's R-rated, you know what they're going to slap right in your face. And you have to choose wisely and make sure you don't open your ears to let that kind of stuff get in there and stay in there. If it comes in, you'd better get it out – fast! Cast it out! Bring every thought in subjection to Christ…that's what the Scriptures admonish us.
And God goes on to say: "Don't touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." Why will God receive us if we do that? Because God is clean, God is wholesome, God is Holy, and God wants us to be that way. And He knows that we will benefit in this physical life if we do what? Follow His instructions. II Timothy 2:19 were told:
II Timothy 2:19 Nevertheless, the solid foundation of God stands, - in other words, you can't shake the unshakable God…His word is an eternal standard that is locked solid…having this seal: - and what a wonderful seal this is, that "The Lord, the Eternal knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
That's part of our mission statement every day, to part from those things that cause lawlessness and rebellion against the things of God.
We move to another aspect of our attitude in coming out, found in Colossians 1:13 Colossians 1:13 Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
American King James Version×where were told that God has done what?
Colossians 1:13 Colossians 1:13 Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
American King James Version× He has delivered us from the power of darkness – the power of darkness resides in the hands of Satan the devil, the god of this world, II Corinthians 4:4, and in Hebrews, Chapter 2 it says that Christ came to do what? He came to destroy him – destroy, or annul or thwart him, block out he who has the power of death. Who is the power of death? Satan the devil – he is called the prince of darkness of this world. His spirit can manifest itself in many aspects of the world in which we live, but you and I have been delivered from that. In other words, it's all around us, but God says you are no longer under its power because you have now voluntarily repented and come to God and you are seeking God, and what has God done? The goodness of God who led us to repentance (in Romans 2) has now done what? He's given us His Spirit shed abroad in our hearts through the power of His Holy Spirit, and that gives us the ability to do what? To be translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love. You and I are in the process of moving from an earthly kingdom that was darkness, to a spiritual kingdom which is light. And you and I are now embracing the light, and the Bible uses terms such as we have become the children of light. We follow the Master who is radiant in the light; He has no darkness in Him. And He's banishing the darkness that has been in our lives and we've all had those hidden places, those dark places. And you know, as they say, every human being has not only the good side, but the bad side, and God is going to ultimately get rid of the bad side and bring to light, the glorious sons and daughters of God.
So, John, Chapter 15...the gospel of John makes it very clear here in Verse 19:
John 15:19 John 15:19If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
American King James Version×"If you were of the world…
Guess what the world would do…you'd be on the Grammy awards, you'd be on the Oscars, you'd be getting all kinds of…they'd be praising you and saying, Oh what a talent that is –what a wonderful person you are…they would be praising you because you would be in step with the world. Remember what the Pharisees said to Jesus: "We have piped to you and you don't pipe back – why don't you pipe back. We're piping to you…please pipe back." Play by our rules. And Jesus says, "No." He didn't come to do their will – He came to do the will of the Father. And He never deviated from that, because he knew…He stayed that focused. His mind was riveted on that, and that's what He kept constantly, because He knew that if he didn't do that, none of us would have a future for us. No human being, made in the image of God, male or female, would have anything to look forward to except, verily you've had your reward, you've had a short flick at it of life, and now you're gone. But Jesus gave us a wonderful promise, that he, though he were dead, yet shall he live. Why? Because he believed in Jesus Christ as the death, burial and resurrection Son of God. That's a wonderful promise given to us.
And so, because you are not of the world…and this is interesting, and we must remember, it says because you are not of the world now, but I chose you out of the world …you and I have been selected by Jesus Christ. We've been selected to fulfill a destiny in our lifetime and to be ambassadors for that great wonderful Creator that has shown us these things, and because of that He says: "therefore that world that you live in, but are not a part of, it hates you."
It's not going to hate you on everything you do, like Jesus said: If they kept My sayings, they'll keep yours." But you just try to change their way of doing things by telling them "Hey, you're wrong. And this is the way you should do it." And you will see the volcano erupt very quickly. You'll see a side of people, how they can change in a flash! And Jesus, He experienced all that, and He says so will we. That's why it's through much tribulation we enter the kingdom of God. We know our goal, we know the destination, but to live in this world but not be a part of it is a struggle every day of your life. You have to pray to keep your attitude straight; you have to pray for strength to survive. You have to pray to stay close to God because you don't have the strength, nor do I, or anyone else who is converted, we don't have the strength unless God supplies us with His Holy Spirit through Christ giving us the strength and support that we need.
II Thessalonians 2:14 to which He called you by our gospel, (this is Paul talking – we've been called by the gospel) for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
To share in the glory and the inheritance that Jesus Christ received when He was sent to the heavens above to sit at the right hand of God the Father and to be our High Priest and Savior. Then these are things that absolutely are exciting, because anything that the world gives us that is exciting is only temporary, but God's excitement lasts forever. And that's why God gives us a little foretaste… "You like this? You like the good things that I have placed forth in life? But there's so much more; you've just scratched the surface!" And this is why God gives us admonishment in I John, Chapter 2. Let's go there – a very important Scripture…the apostle John who was the last of the original apostles…in I John 2:15 John 2:15And when he had made a whip of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
American King James Version×he gives this instruction – under the inspiration of God's Spirit, he says it's important that we love, we don't put our affections or our desires -
I John 2:15 John 2:15And when he had made a whip of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables;
American King James Version× To love not the world, neither the things…in other words, don't get caught up in materialism where you want to have things, where you put more emphasis on things… someone once told me, and I don't know how true it is - they said, you know in past generations people were more important than things - Today, people make things more important than people. And that's sad, because you see it every day in the news, because people do terrible things to other people, to get their things – they steal, they kill…they do terrible things. So, we're told not to love the things that are of the world - If any individual (man or woman) love the world, its standards, its values. When you see instutionalizing of sin, when you see individuals running to decriminalize the things that the Bible says are forbidden, that people are not to mess with these things, and they're just going full-pledged to them - it tells you that all of this is not of the Father; it's not how God operates.
Notice if you will:
Verse 16: For all that is in the world - everything is tainted with what? The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life - is not of the Father, but of the world.
And He says, to those who are attuned realize the following, Verse 17, that this world…people don't want to believe it, but the word of God makes it very clear that this world is passing away…everyone recognizes, they say: "Something's wrong – everything's changing so fast – what's going down? This country is not the same anymore – what's happening?" He says:
Verse 17: This world passes away, and the lust thereof, but he who does the will of God …
Contained in the pages of the Holy Scripture, conforming one's life to the best of your ability with the help of God's Spirit, conforming to live this way – this is the key, and so God says, even though you have to live in it, you are not a part of it. And so living in, but not of the world, means you are not to love it…And Romans 12, Verse 1 and 2 reminds us we're not to be conformed to it, but to be transformed, that God is transforming us to be like Jesus Christ Himself. And that is so important. And then James 1, Verse 27 reminds us that we have to keep ourselves unspotted from the world – unspotted from the world. There are a lot of things that can get you spotted or contaminated and defiled very quickly.
They recently had some material presented to them at the Home Office by one of the individuals there, showing about the serious problems that are impacted, not only on society, but it is a warning to all in the Church of God. And that is the fact that we are now beginning to see the world creep into and have its poisonous effect even on church members, and he gave a very, very explicit insight on the dangers of pornography, and how it is affecting men in the Church of God. This is something, again, when you're dealing with a computer today, they can just punch or click and you've got all these filthy things out there that come flying into your home, and you sit there for hours. And they find men at work, are not doing their job at work because they're looking at porn channels. These are things that God forbids - to keep our minds clean we cannot look at things that are outside the parameter of God's laws dealing with male and female. It does a derogatory affect upon the mind of the man, and the woman is – she's "thrown under the bus and defiled." Now there are whole religions involved. Recently on BBC I heard over there a situation in Saudi Arabia…a young lady came down with some kind of a malady that was threatening her life. And she was in a facility which was all women. Now in that country all women and all men stay separated, unless you did become married under Islamic law, and you function accordingly.
Well, in this case, according to the BBC as they pronounced this story, they said the young lady came down with a malady and they would normally call for the EMT's to come and administer, but there was a problem with that. You see, men cannot go into an establishment with women - there is a separation there. And they don't allow female EMT's – only males. The young lady died because she couldn't get the help she needed. Oh, by the way, Saudi Arabia has just been placed on the Human Rights – Human Rights group of the United Nations. They don't even take care of their own, and they're going to be helping on Human Rights? What about the rights of the poor women who are treated like cattle in those societies?
Well, a lot of things have to be kept in mind, and Ephesians, Chapter 6 and Verse 12, we're reminded that another attitude that we have to keep and maintain if we are to survive, and Ephesians 6:12 Ephesians 6:12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
American King James Version×is as follows: We have to have what I would call a "militant attitude." In other words, we have to have a "fighting spirit". This is why the Scriptures use the term…Paul uses these. He says, "Fight the good fight of faith." You can't fight if you're a pacifist – you have to fight because you're a warrior. And God has told us that you're going to have to fight to survive in this world that is against everything that God stands for. That's why people come up with the idea when they first encounter God's truth, and they say, "Why – it's so hard!" No, no, no, no, no! If everybody were doing the things of God, it would be easy. Jesus said it was easy…He says, "Take My yoke upon you"…He says, because it's easy – follow Me. What makes it hard living in, but not of the world, as He had to, what it was hard for Him to deal with, like we have to deal with it, is everything that Satan's world throws at you that is contrary, and that's what burdens you down. You say, "Keep the seventh day Sabbath"…and everyone says, "You don't have to keep the seventh day Sabbath." And God says, "Oh yes you do!" And the world says, "Oh no, you don't." And so on and on it goes.
Then you say, "Well Jesus wasn't born on December 25th, this thing you do all the time – when I check the history books it says it's the Roman Saturnalia"… "Well, we don't do it for that – we do it because we love Jesus." So on and on this kind of stuff goes, and you have to put up with it, and deal with it. And it's just par for the course, but if you don't fight the good fight of faith against it, then you'll wave a white flag of surrender to it, and God hasn't called us to do that.
Alright, those are the areas of the Christian's attitude toward the world. Now let's take a look at another aspect of it, and keep this in mind, that no matter what you do (this second area) someone will not like you - if you think everybody's going to like you, you're going to be a most miserable person in this world. There will be people who will like you and there are a lot of people that…well, I won't even go there, because they're nasty. And they deal with people in a nasty manner. And that's why God says you're not of that world…there will always be unfairness; there will always be unreasonable people. Let's take a look at II Thessalonians, Chapter 3, and let's notice Verses 1 and 2:
II Thessalonians 3:1 Finally, brethren, - notice, when he uses the word finally, he's talking about, as a result of everything's that's gone in the prior verses, here's what you need to consider: pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, even as it is with you,
Verse 2: and that we may be delivered – what do we get delivered from? Notice – from unreasonable and wicked men; for all men have not faith.
They just don't care about the things of God, and live for the moment – and that's the way they operate. Those who are worldly will think you are strange, as I Peter 4, Verses 1 through 5 says – let's go to I Peter, Chapter 4 and see how Peter defines this – I Peter 4:1-5:
I Peter 4:1 For as much then, as Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves…notice that, arm yourselves – it's just like a soldier, if you told a soldier you'd say: "Alright, arm yourself." Well, what would he do? He'd pick up his M-16; he'd pick up his ammunition – he'd be ready for combat. "Arm yourself" – he would do what is necessary. Spiritually we have to arm ourselves with the word of God. Matthew 4 tells us in that verse, dealing where Jesus is talking to Satan the devil when he was being tempted, He says what…He says: "We are not to live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." That's how you arm yourself. That's your weapons and arsenal to reach into the word of God, and when something is thrown at you, you take the word of God and you slice it back – you throw it back, and you fight the good fight of faith. If you don't know what's in the arsenal, then you can't fight. If the physical soldier leaves his ammunition behind, his gun is worthless to him – it won't do anything. He can't make it fire – not in a combat situation.
So, what does it also go on to say? Arm yourselves likewise with the same mind, - there's why – there's the difference right there; it's in the mind. It's where God is telling us, "Yes, you live in the world, but you're not of it." But in the mind, for he that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
Now when you have gone through this and you realize the heartaches of sin, you don't want any part of it.
Verse 2: that he no longer should live the rest of his (or her) time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to do the will of God.
Verse 3: For the times past of our life may have sufficed us to wrought the will of the Gentiles (we live like others) - we walked in licentiousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelries, banqueting's, abominable idolatries.
And then he goes on to say:
Verse 4: Wherein they think it strange that you run not with them in the same manner of excess to riot, speaking evil of you.
How do they do that? "Well, I've known you for years, (so and so). What's the matter – what's wrong with you? Oh, you got religion – you're now one of them "holy Joe" guys, huh?" And they like to laugh, and they like to make fun. But it's not a fun thing to laugh at – it's a serious thing, in light of God's word.
Alright, that's what's going to happen. Now let's take a look at a third category here, as we move along. This is what we can do to make sure we do our part – in other words, what can we do? Whatare we supposed to do if we live in, but not of, the world? Here's where we go: First of all, Proverbs 18:24 Proverbs 18:24A man that has friends must show himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.
American King James Version×tells us that if you're going to interface with other people, it says friendliness is necessary. You have to be friendly, because friendliness is not sourness – it's not being like a sourpuss! Because, who wants to be a Christian when you say, "I'm a Christian, and I love God." "Oh you do? Doesn't look like you do – looks like you're going to sleep. Looks like you couldn't care less." But when you have enthusiasm and excitement for the things of God, excitement and enthusiasm is infectious, and people are drawn to that. They want to be a part of that. They are excited when they see other people excited, but if everybody else… "Oh I can't wait for the kingdom of God." "You can't wait? I'll wait! I'm not eager to go, if it's going to be like that!" See, this is why I say, it's excitement that has to be portrayed, and you have to see it from God's perspective to get the picture.
If you talk about sour grapes or soured godliness – we could call that the devil's religion, because he's got all the different types out there. My point is this, when people are warm and people are friendly and they know that you care, you're going to have people come to you – they'll want to be like you. They'll what to get to know you. But if you're a cold cucumber, and you don't smile, and you don't do anything to, you know, draw attention other than you just kind of stay off to yourself…no one wants to be around people like that. You want to be in the midst – you want to be…we're social creatures – God made us that way. We're going to spend all eternity together. And it's going to be an exciting time. God's not going to say, "Hey, what are you doing out there – why don't you come here with the family?" "Well, I don't want to be part of this family." We're not going to talk like that in God's kingdom! We're going to say, "Yes Lord. What's next Lord – what would you have me do Lord?" That's the joy of God's kingdom.
A second thing that you'd have to keep in mind…the first thing is be friendly. That's what's got to be done every day. Then we have to remember, God has required that we walk humbly, with humility. Proverbs 15, Verse 33, and notice what we are told here:
Proverbs 15:33 Proverbs 15:33The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility.
American King James Version× The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility.
If we don't walk humbly before our God, He's not going to raise us up to higher areas of responsibility and service. It's very important, because again, we have people in society, intellectual, financial and spiritual who are a bunch of snobs – they know more than you – they couldn't care less what you think! And if somebody wants to be a snob, you don't want to be like that. What was Jesus – He was very humble, he mixed with people – He mixed with the good; He mixed with the bad. But He didn't let the bad influence Him to become bad – He always set the example for them to change. And He called the ones out of terrible situations and brought them to a relationship where He, as their example, could carry forth and live their lives in harmony with God's blessing.
We can get down among people without getting down to their level of sin. This is what Paul said: "Well, I became all things to all people that I may gain them for Christ." We have to learn that people are on different levels of living life, and we need to know how to function in that context.
A third point, friendly, humility…the third point to consider is to be unselfish, in our manner, in our decorum. To be unselfish, meaning don't be self-centered. In Philippians 2: 4 were told to let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. And that's part of it – we have to be a "people person." Like I Corinthians 9 tells us the apostle Paul was, he became all things to all people. There are a lot of people who are very giving in this world – they're not selfish-oriented people. They would give you the shirt off their back. And they don't understand the truth of God at this time. And so, you and I are told, when we deal with those kind of people, what do we do? We don't look at people and just say, "Oh, you don't know the truth." Well, we wouldn't know the truth either if God hadn't been merciful and touched our minds and our hearts and opened the door so that we could begin to understand. In fact, you have to pray then more, help me to understand what I can't understand without your help. If God doesn't give us understanding, you're in the dark. You can say you know, but you don't really know – only God knows, all things. He penetrates the thought process; He knows, He's the controlling factor of our thoughts. He says, if we commit our work to God, He will establish our thoughts; He'll guide us in the directions we need to go.
These unselfish people out there need to be taken into consideration in this way- they need to be dealt with kindly, because the fourth point that all of us are required to do is to learn how to be tolerant in the right way, of other individuals. Tolerant – that doesn't mean to encourage sin, but to understand that others do not have the same understanding you do, or, Father, forgive them; they know not what they do. And since you know they don't know, don't hold them accountable in the same way that you know you have to hold yourself accountable. You have to live a certain way – you don't look at God and say, "Well, why can't I live like that?" You want to be thankful that you're living like this now, because their day is coming – your day is now. And you want to make the most of it while you've got the opportunity.
No, when we deal with individuals, and to be tolerant it's important to have all the facts before you, before you judge anyone. The Scripture tells us to judge righteous judgment, not to condemn, because if you put yourself on a plateau like, "Well, I wouldn't do that" – Oh yes you would - given enough time, you know. People say "I would never do that." They don't know their own human nature – they really don't, people who say that. They look at other people and say, "I can't believe he (or she) did that! Well I would never do that." I know Mr. self-righteous…I know Mr.… - you know. You would never do that! But God says all have sinned. When a person thinks they wouldn't do something, all you have to do is keep them awake for 72 hours straight without sleep, and you will see some changes you wouldn't believe, that come out of human beings. It happens. That's why you don't want to go there. You don't want...you know, "Lord deliver us from those type of temptations – don't let us get into those situations" - because we can't deliver the goods.
John 7:24 John 7:24Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
American King James Version×tells us to judge righteous judgment – that means when you're evaluating something…and God does require we judge, but He wants us to judge according to His righteous standards and the Scripture, because that's the key – that will give us the proper response that we all need to understand. Get all the facts, because the first time something comes to you, you might say, "Well, that sounds good" – then you're like the Proverbs says, you investigate it and say, "Oh, oh, wow – I'm glad I didn't do that, because I thought it was this – lo and behold, it's that!" And we've all had little incidents in life to teach us those things.
Alright, one, two, three, four, five…number five is: Be sincere, truthful, honest and consistent. There's nothing wrong with that – that's honorable, the way God wants it to be. He wants us to be truthful, He wants us to be sincere, and He wants us to be honest and consistent. Consider, if you will, Philippians 1:10 Philippians 1:10That you may approve things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.
American King James Version×– let's look at Philippians 1:10 Philippians 1:10That you may approve things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.
American King James Version×:
Philippians 1:10 Philippians 1:10That you may approve things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.
American King James Version× that you may approve the things that are excellent, and that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,
In other words, our conduct speaks louder…there's that old axiom: Your actions speak louder than words – that, I can't hear a thing you say. So it's important how we conduct ourselves in these areas.
Number six would be: The golden rule – Matthew 7:12 Matthew 7:12Therefore all things whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
American King James Version×. Just treat others the way you would like to be treated. You know, they used to have a very wonderful custom down here in the south – it has kind of disappeared over the years, people would pass by one another and they would all wave at one another. I can still remember that from years ago, and it's very heart-warming. I just try to practice something personally, myself, that when I pass neighbors or anybody, people don't even know me, I'll wave at them. And you'd be surprised how many people that light up when you do that, and they'll wave back at you – they don't know who I am, from Adam – my name's Ken, but they think I'm…you know - you didn't catch that one! Okay! Can't win every time, you know! You try!
But anyhow, they don't know who you are, but you waved at them! You showed respect to them, and they want to be acknowledged, just like you. You don't want to be thrown in the corner somewhere and no one pays attention to you – you're a person! You're a human being. There's no one like you; you're unique in the creation powers of Almighty God. And that's so important. Well, the golden rule tells us that. Regardless of what they do - they may not treat you right, but you treat them the way Jesus would treat them…Jesus never treated people wrongly. He rebuked sin, but He was always understanding of human weakness and compassion, and He was moved with compassion to help. And that's how God wants us – He wants us to care, and to have that understandable perception of life. He wants us to be stable; He doesn't want us to be a bunch of wimps. He wants us to be men and women of God – something that God can look down and say, "That's My beloved son; that's My beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased." He said that about His Son. And we know that it's so important for us likewise, to find favor in God's eyes.
Let's move toward conclusion, it's very important that we do what? That we don't make unreasonable expectations of what we're going to do, like: "Well, I'm going to pray an hour a day", and think, that's not reasonable. In this day and age you're not going to sit down – if you do, more power to you, but for most of us, I don't think we can just sit down and block an hour of time and pray. It's just not there. We might have to catch a little here, catch a little there, but we're praying – we're staying in an attitude of prayer. So, in this particular case, don't make unreasonable expectations about your life, because you'll be unhappy continually, because you'll never be able to achieve what it is that you have set as your goal. Be realistic in what you do.
In conclusion, we need to understand that being the light of the world means that people, as they look at us – and boy, do they look at us – and what are they looking at? They're looking at the body of Christ – He's the Head; we are the body. Do we bring glory and honor to our Head? Or do we set a wrong example and dishonor our Head? That's food for thought.
I Corinthians, Chapter 3, reminds us of the following:
I Corinthians 3:16 Know you not that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
The warning here is that:
Verse 17: If any individual defiles the temple of God, Him shall God destroy. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
You are a temple of God. The Spirit dwells in you, and he's saying, don't do things that would injure His precious gift of life God has given to you in your physical form.
What do they see? Do they see someone who's unhappy, judgmental, a "kook", or do they see somebody who really…if people come in, new people come in, they see our Web site, they come in and they say, "I want to see these people; I want to get to know them." And then we sit in our chairs and nobody says Hi…you don't want to rush them when they come through the door; you know – they'll say, "Whew." That scares the daylights out of them. You don't want to preach the whole gospel in twenty minutes. You just say, "Hey – Hi, my name is so and so – welcome - Nice to have you." You know, just small talk at first and just kind of, let them get used to you. Because, you know, how did you think the church was when you first came – "Wow, this is the perfect church!" No, it's not a perfect church - made up of people who have all kinds of flaws, but one thing that just stands out loud and clear, they love God their Father, they love Jesus Christ, their Lord and Savior and they love being with one another, because that is one of the signs, that you have found the body of Christ – they love the brethren. And that love for the brethren is so important. And so, Jesus never promised that it was going to be "cherries without pits." He said there would be tribulation – He said in 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×. He says: In the world you will have trials (or tribulations) – problems - Because you live in but are not a part of the world. It's working on a different set of circumstances. But He tells us that if we will overcome, as He overcame, with the power of God's Spirit, that you have a place…if I may use the term, as the most wonderful thing I can think of…you have a date with destiny, to become a glorified son and daughter of the most important Being that exists in creation of all things: the Father of heaven, the Father of all Spirits, and our High Priest, Jesus Christ.
That is some wonderful pearl of great price. May we never lose it – hang tight, because there will be elements trying to steal your crown, as we are warned in Revelation. God help us all to follow Christ's example – let's live in the world, but not be of it!