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A Difference Maker

 “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.”  II Corinthians 6: 17

Commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior calls for and enables there to be a radical, miraculous “new birth” that begins a lifetime of sweeping moral renewal and transformation.

Our text issues a clarion call for followers of Jesus to be different. Yet studies indicate there is little difference in the conduct of Christians and non-Christians.

When a person is truly saved, they have a new nature. Spiritually they are “born again.” Yet, they still reside in a body with the same glands and appetites that has forged old habits. Habits, good or bad, are hard to break. Most new Christians are not made aware of the spiritual conflict that prevails between the old sin nature and the new spiritual nature. The same old allures exist, but now there is a call to new life with its fulfilling new pleasures.

To enable more moral victories it is imperative for the new Christian to assess the pattern leading to their former indulgence in sin. Know what is the initial instinctive invitation to sinful indulgence. That is, what leads to a sin. Then this thought should be forged  into your mind: “If you are not going into the house stay off the porch.” That is, take counter efforts to avoid sin by avoiding the allure before it becomes a desire. In a different context a favorite saying of Barney Fife is appropriate, “Nip it, just nip it.”

To avoid snake bites don’t play with snakes. To avoid sin don’t play with it.

Don’t be surprised by the thought of sinning. Some persons are concerned that because they have the temptation they are guilty of sin. Only when the thought becomes consensual is it sin. Luther, the reformer said, “You can’t keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building their nest in your hair.”

A currently popular concept that was prevalent when the Book of Romans was written was that since God’s forgiveness of sin made Him look good, let’s really make Him look good by sinning all the more. Scripture addresses that concept: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6: 1, 2) 

English versions are kind in translating it, “God forbid.” The Greek word so translated is “meginomai.” With the transliteration being “from haven to earth NO.” This calls for us to come out from among them and become a people separated in mind and motive, separated in action and attitude – separated unto God. We are to have a mind-set that is from God, with a heart that is for God, and severed from the corrupt thinking of today. Believers are therefore a peculiar people, peculiarly the children of God.

We will always be among non-believers, but are never to be of non-believers.

The gospel of grace says “come as you are,” however it demands that you do not remain as you were. You are a new creature in Christ. Not only is a butterfly different in form from a caterpillar, but in conduct also. Butterflies unite.

Stay off the porch. If you are on it, get off of it, now. Enjoy the victory.

A Tribute to Truth

I Kings 3: 7 – 9

Jesus said, “… you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  (John 8:32)

Who among us does not long for such freedom? Who among us does not need such truth to enable us to make right choices and right judgements?

One morning the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Chancellor of England awakened a blue-eyed girl to say to her, “Your uncle, the King, died last night and you are the Queen of the far-flung British Empire on which the sun never sets.” Then, the Archbishop read to her Solomon’s prayer in I Kings 3: 7-9:

“Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?”

As with the young Queen there are so many hours of decision in our lives we need understanding hearts to discern between good and evil. Often our difficult choices relate to deciding between what is good and that which is best. Our lives are a summary of our decisions. We need help in making our decisions.

Jesus offered this caution regarding decisions related to others: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”  (Matthew 7:1, 2)

Most of us are umpires at heart. We want to call balls and strikes on someone else. For some judging is a sporadic problem. For others it is a chronic life-long problem. Such persons keep a vigil for weaknesses in others. Jesus said, “with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Be very careful what you say about others and how you treat them because “What goes around comes around.”

Jesus Christ said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  (Matthew 6:24)

Is Jesus Christ the Sovereign Lord of your life? Does He rule in your life?

In an old book authored by Dr. Ralph Sockman entitled “The Highest Happiness” he points out that the only contender for the “seat of sovereignty is self.” That is, you are the only contender for the office of God in your life other than the true and living God. Jesus phrased it this way, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” There is room for only one on the throne of your life. 

In writing the Christians at Rome Paul appealed, “Please not yourself.” This is an appeal to do those things pleasing to the Lord and not merely ego gratifying. When a commitment to Jesus isn’t simply as Savior, but also Lord, then there is the highest happiness.

We need to be able to pray with Jesus, “Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

Regarding the moment at hand pause and pray such an self-effacing prayer.

A Heartfelt Purpose 1/11/98

Daniel 1:1-8
Page 1297 Come Alive Bible

Jesus Christ is depicted as our ideal for inspiration. We are challenged to always be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Jesus had a rough and challenging road in life. Perhaps that is why you have found you can relate to Him and more importantly why He can relate to you.

A family with young children was walking a mountain path together. It was a bit challenging to the children. One of them exclaimed, “This is not a path at all. It is all rocky and bumpy. The older child enjoying the challenge replied, “Sure, the bumps are what you climb on.”

Having observed many lives and read many biographies I have never known of a person who achieved who didn’t have a bumpy path in all of life. Success resulted from learning to climb on the bumps.

We learn and grow by doing so. In a “Peanuts” cartoon, my favorite theologian, Charlie Brown is complaining about his team always losing. Trying to console him Lucy says, “Remember, Charlie Brown, you learn more from your defeats than you do from your victories.”

Charlie replies, “That makes me the smartest man in the world.” You may feel you are Charlie’s chief competition for “world’s smartest.” Remember, bumps are what you climb on. While doing so always keep your eyes on Jesus Who climbed His bumps.

Jesus Christ, Who masterfully climbed on the bumps in his path said, “Come out from among them and be separated…”

God has always looked for His separated band that He might use and bless. In the Old Testament is a classic example of some youth who qualified without qualification.

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had conquered Jerusalem and carried a number of the choicest youth back to Babylon. Note these characteristics:

AGE: “young” (Vs. 4a) It was king David who said, “I have been young, and am now old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken” (Psalm 37: 25).

APPEARANCE: “in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking”

ACUMEN:
1. “gifted in all wisdom”
2. “possessing knowledge”
3. “quick to understand”

AMENITIES: “who had the ability to serve in the king’s palace”

Daniel had taken a vow regarding his diet and total abstinence from drugs. The drug in question was alcohol. The king’s instruction was a command that would have violated Daniel’s convictions.

Here was an appeal to popularity, prestige, prominence, and power. In this story we can see —

I. TEMPTATIONS PHILOSOPHICAL PULL
A. Youth. What a fantastic time of life! Ambition is high and experience is low, BUT often that ambition drives one to excessive experiences.

This has left many youths as frustrated as a bird looking for a worm in AstroTurf.

As mixed up as a termite in a yo-yo.

As anxious as a sheep that is allergic to wool.

So nervous they could thread a sewing machine that is running.

It is a challenging time when hormones kick in. Internal stress and external strife often result. It is critically important that young people understand what is happening within them. Be patient with yourself and by all means don’t let your body chemistry separate you from your parents. Let reason take charge of your feelings.

B. Captivity. The greatest slavery the world has ever known is the slavery of a modern American teenager to the opinion of other teens. Rarely does Satan use physical violence to persecute us in America today. He does it psychologically by assaulting our ego, and our feelings. Satan doesn’t say, “I will pull off your nose if you share your faith with a best friend.” Or, “I will rip out your liver if you take a stand in this setting.”

He does impress us with: “You won’t have a friend left if you don’t go along with the gang.” Or, “Folks will think you are weird if you don’t do what they are doing.”

C. Flattery. “Hey, baby I love you!” “I need you.”

D. Isolation. Away from home. Teenage mobility today.

E. Futility. Nothing for which to live, homeland destroyed.

F. Loneliness. Ann Frank: “Youth is the loneliest time of life.”

Sometimes it seems no one wants to have anything to do with us. The dating period of life is a testing one. Excuses are often created for not wanting to accept an invitation to date. Such as:

“I’d love to go out with you, but I’m attending the opening of my garage door.”

“I’d love to go out with you, but I need to spend more time with my blender.”

“I’d love to go out with you, but it’s my night to pet the goldfish.”

“I’d love to go out with you, but I need to work on my cottage cheese sculpture.”

“I’d love to go out with you, but I promised to help my friend fold road maps.”

Maya Angelou, in her book, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, describes her life as a lonely black child being shuffled back and forth among several families, and concludes: “Of all the needs a lonely child has, the one that must be satisfied if there is going to be hope of wholeness is the overshaking need for an unshakable God.”

Don’t let loneliness drive you to compromise.

These same things lead many people to opt for drugs in an attempt to synthetically seek to meet their needs.

As a result, between 1960 and 1980:
The delinquency rate has doubled.
The birthrate for unwed mothers is up 130 percent.
Suicide is up 130 percent.
Murder is up 232 percent.

A recent report in USA TODAY showed:

“Almost half of the teen drug abusers got involved before age 12. Cocaine, the drug of the middle-class kids, has risen in use from 7% in ’84, to 63% today.
61% of abusers use alcohol first; 30% used pot.
65% used drugs a year before their parents suspected it.
70% were introduced to drugs by a friend.
34% used drugs for the first time at home.”

WHY are youth doing this? The same appeal is being made to them as made to Daniel: captivity, flattery, isolation, futility, and loneliness.

II. TRUTHS PRACTICAL POWER
A. Daniel Purposed Not to Defile Himself. The word “defile” meant “to pollute.”

This had to be a difficult and challenging series of bumps for Daniel. You too may be climbing a seemingly unsurmountable series of bumps. Always remember: “Never doubt in the darkness, what God has told you in the light.” Daniel didn’t.

At times we must by faith cling to the truth of these couplets:
“Yesterday God helped me, Today He’ll do the same.
How long will this continue? Forever — praise His name.”

Chris Craft was asked: “When is the best time to make a decision?”

Underscore in verse 8 the big little word “himself.” Personal resolve is part of the solution. There are some decisions you don’t have to make but once. The decision not to “defile” himself.

Make a decision now not to pollute yourself:
1. With drugs.
2. Morally. Pregnant teens: “I don’t know why I did it.”

B. Daniel Prayed – Daniel 6:10, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.”

C. Daniel Proceeded to Trust The Consequences to God. He knew what we must never forget. God won’t keep us from trouble, but He will keep us while in trouble. There are circumstances in life that may hurt us but they can’t harm us.

God will never require anything of us that He will not enable. Otherwise He would just be mocking our weaknesses. That He doesn’t do.

III. TRIUMPHS PURPOSEFUL PRODUCT
A. He Gained A Healthy Body

B. He Laid a Good Foundation for Adulthood. Be kind to your tomorrow self.

C. He Was Admired By Man and Blessed by God.

How to Conquer a Giant

 I Samuel 21: 15 – 17

Are you facing a challenge that may seem insurmountable, greater than you can handle? At times most have such. These are our giants to deal with as David did Goliath. Most know of that confrontation, but there were other giants. Let’s draw a parallel between our giant and those of that era.

David fought gallantly, however he like all of us had a limit, and the Scripture says David grew weary. Yet, there were other giants to deal with. Ishbi-Benob was one. Abishai, a servant of David, came to David’s aid and took on and killed Ishbi-Benob. In dealing with your giant there are four things you and Abishai have in common.

– You have to see the giant. Abishai had no problem seeing his giant. He even knew the weight of his spear head. He gathered details. For you to deal with your giant you have to size it up. These giants were intimidating. Perhaps yours is also.  Big is a comparative term. Your giant may seem big compared to you, but small compared with Jesus. Notice in our text (vs. 21) the giant “defied” God’s people.  Don’t be defied, analyze your problem. You can deal with it.

– You must have a killer instinct like Abishai. That is, you must have an appetite for dealing with your problem. Show that motivated by Jesus you have the heart to deal with your problem. Resolve you can do it with the help of the Lord. Don’t be disheartened, be enheartened that with His help you can deal with your giant.

– You have to have a plan of attack as Abishai did. Determine the steps to take in dealing with your giant. Have a plan of attack. Devise it through prayer, searching Scripture, and gathering all the facts. Let it be an informed decision.

Define the problem. In understanding a problem effectively, we have to be clear about what the issue is. Be certain you know the full problem. Gather information. What are the circumstances and what are alternatives in dealing with them? If possible seek the best godly council. Generate possible solutions. Evaluate the ideas and then choose one. 

The Lord is very understanding. You might well pray: “Dear God in light of what I know the circumstances and understand of your will this is my decision. Forgive me if I am wrong, it is out of ignorance, not obstinance.” 

– You have to act, Abishai did. He could have seen his giant, had a killer instinct, and devised a plan of attack without enjoying success.  Only when he struck did he conquer. At each point seek the Lord’s guidance and help. Find what you understand to be the solution and pray, “Thy will be done.”

How to Develop a Strong Faith

John 3:16

Jesus wants to enable you to stretch yourself spiritually and expand the circumference of your faith. 

On His Earth walk He greatly admired faith. After a woman had exercised admirable faith, He said to her “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:50). Peace!

Genuine faith begins when a person finally decides he or she isn’t God and happily acknowledges submission to the living God.

Such faith is assuring, insuring, and enduring.

Sorrow looks back, worry looks around, and faith looks up.

Faith helps us walk fearlessly, run confidently, and live victoriously.

Faith is the basis of life. Some people think it is a sign of weakness. It is rather an indication of strength. Thomas Edison said he never conducted an experiment that did not begin with faith.  

Have you ever gone on a date, taken a mate, driven in the rain, flown on a plane, bought or sold an item on credit? You have faith.

Have you ever eaten in a fast-food outlet where you don’t even know the cook, see its preparation, or know its source? You have faith.

Have you ever gone to a doctor you didn’t know, been given a prescription you couldn’t read, taken it to a pharmacist you couldn’t see, and taken the medicine provided?  You have faith.

Everybody has faith. It is just a matter of who or what you are willing to put your confidence in, and the principles by which you dedicate yourself. 

Faith has many sophisticated definitions. However, in reality faith is merely confidence in God’s character. Write it down, that’s a good one.

If a person responds positively and trusts Jesus for salvation, it is an act of  faith 

If a person responds negatively and rejects Jesus as Savior. It is an act of faith. based on belief in something or someone in whom they trust more than they do Jesus.

Faith gives us the courage to face the present with confidence, and the future with optimism.

Faith leading to salvation and abundant life is in reality saying as did Martin Luther this I believe, here I stand. Read, memorize and study Scripture, thereby feeding your faith. Be like a miner who has just struck a major pay-load of rich ore. By studying Scripture you can get to know the Lord as though He is your neighbor who is your best friend. Familiarity breeds faith. 

There are in reality only two decisions regarding trusting Jesus in faith for salvation: yes or no. Later is a no because of the unknown “X” factor, death. If you were to die right now where would you spend eternity? In faith put your trust in Jesus for salvation. Thereafter in all things put faith in Him to guide you. 

Then what Jesus said to the woman who put her faith in Him will apply to you: “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:50). Peace? Yes, peace.