Wednesday, May 26, 2010

"4 Changes For Knowing God in an Ungodly Culture," pt 1

I once worked with a man who was being used by God on the outside to help with our youth group, but little did we know he was living a life of deep sinfulness and immorality at the same time. Fortunately, God protected us by not letting him get too close to our kids. Unfortunately, this man is in prison today because he did not change.
A friend of my friend, who was a pastor, and the best man at my friend’s wedding was being used by God to draw thousands of people to his church every weekend, and the church exploded with growth, but he too was taken away for sin he committed.
Another man, who was being used by God to lead God’s people in worship and lead hundreds of teenagers to Christ, suddenly had some skeletons that came out of the closet, and this man was asked to resign and his ministry ruined because of stealing.
Let me clarify: I know many pastors and ministry leaders between here, Chicago, and Dallas, and by far most I have met are Godly men and women, serving the Lord faithfully, and in their private lives they are passionate as well as in their public lives.
But some of you can identify with the 3 men I mentioned earlier, can’t you?
According to the May 2009 American Religious Identification Survey by Trinity College in Hartford, CT, “America is less Christian than it was 20 years ago, and Christianity is not losing out to other religions, but primarily to a rejection of religion altogether . . . 75% of the Americans surveyed called themselves Christians . . . in 1990, the figure was 86%. William Donahue, president of the Catholic League said he thinks a radical shift towards individualism over the last quarter-century has a lot to do it. ‘The three most dreaded words are thou shalt not,’ he told Lou Dobbs. "Notice they are not atheists -- they are saying I don't want to be told what to do with my life." At the same time there has been an increase in the number of people expressing no religious affiliation. President Obama and Mitt Romney have addressed “those of no faith,” as a religious group.

According to a gallop poll of 1,500 Americans 18 and older in the Pennsylvania region in 2010,the responses indicated

“I believe that the God of the Bible is one in essence, but distinct in person—Father, Son and Holy Spirit” 75%
“I am willing to risk everything that is important in my life for Jesus Christ” 52%
“I believe the Bible has decisive authority over everything I say and do” 49%
“I believe that nothing I have done or do can earn my salvation” 48%
Less than half believe in salvation by faith alone through God's grace alone!
“I take unpopular stands when my faith dictates” 42%
“I have inner contentment when things go wrong” 35%
“I regularly study the Bible to find direction for my life” 28%
A little more than 25% regularly study the Bible! If this sample reflects the rest of the culture, there is a lack of influence of the Bible in the culture.
“I control my tongue” 22%

Christians, we need to take God seriously and live a godly lifestyle. Even if God is using you, you must change any ungodly ways and confess sin, or you may share our hero's fate.

Today we see Samson, a man who God had a plan for and gave strength to, but who lived immorally, and God no longer used.
Today I want to tell you 4 C’s to change your ungodly lifestyle, a.k.a. “SIN”. These are important, and it might save your life to listen.

In Judges 13, the Angel of the Lord came to Samson’s parents, Manoah and his wife, and told them they would have a son, who was to be a Nazarite and would begin to deliver God’s people from the Philistines (Judges 13:5).
When Samson grew up, he wanted to marry a foreign wife. This was against God’s law, because Deuteronomy 7:1–3 says, “you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you.”
What does God say about this in Judges 14? In verse 4 we’re told (READ IT)

1) Change your lifestyle, before God changes it for you
If you don’t live for God, sometimes God will cause problems so you will start to live for Him.
When God’s people accept an ungodly culture, sometimes God causes dissension between His people and unbelievers in order to free His people from them.
Also, later in Notice the story of the donkey jawbone battle: Judges 15:11 (READ IT), where the Judahites came out against Samson with 3,000 men, but didn’t care about being oppressed by the Philistines. They were comfortable with the ungodly culture they were living in!
It means if you’re living an ungodly lifestyle, and know Christ, today you need to ask His forgiveness and change. If you won’t change, God might come to you like He did to Samson, and open up a hurtful situation so that you will have to change.
It means God is in the business of stirring things up! Why? Because Christians constantly drift towards a lifestyle of comfortable camouflage.
We’re like in the movie Avatar, where Jake Sully goes into the culture of the Na’vi people in order to find out what they’re like to exploit their weakness, and turns into one of them.
Do you know what Jesus said about people who claim to know Him and don’t? Listen to His own words in Matthew 10:
32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.
33 “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.
34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.
38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.
39 “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
A doctor or nurse must sometimes re break a bone in order to set it and help it mend, or slash the Achilles heels of a newborn baby who is born with clubbed feet. All of this is short term pain for long term gain.
We are in a culture going farther and farther from God.
Are you following God or the culture? Are you knowingly sinning? Are there more problems than normal? Change it! Pray and confess the sin, and ask God to help solve whatever needs fixing.
Continue with me as we watch Samson.

Along the way to the Timnite girl, Samson killed a lion, later took honey from the lion, and made up a riddle with it for the guests of his wedding feast to guess. It was against the Nazarite vow to touch a dead body, so Samson broke his vow. In addition to marrying an idol worshipper, Samson broke his Nazarite vow. God used Samson to defeat the Philistines by a) beating up 30 men and stealing their clothes when his riddle was solved; b) tying 300 foxes’ tails together in pairs, with a torch in each of the 150 pairs. Burning down shocks, standing gran, vineyards, and olive groves (huge financial loss); c) killing 1,000 Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone. But God wasn’t happy with Samson’s immorality.
2) Confess your sin, while God is patient
When God doesn’t punish you for sin, and still uses you, it isn’t because He thinks your sin is okay. It’s because He’s giving you a chance to repent.
God’s patience is not the same as God’s forgiveness
Later, Samson will get the consequences he has earned for choosing to disobey God. For now, while God uses him, Samson has opportunity to confess sin and change his lifestyle.
This means for us that God is patient with you, waiting for your confession and repentance of sin, sometimes even while He uses you.
Simile: It’s like a fisherman who arrives on the dock and gets his gear ready, and then realizes his pole is cracked and broken. He’ll use it one last time if he can, but unless it can be fixed, he throws it aside.
It’s like getting dressed in the morning, and half way through the day you realize you have a big hole in your pants. You have no time to go all the way back home and change, so you use those pants the rest of the day but never again unless they are fixed.
God will use you even if you stray into sin, but only for a time. Don’t think He’s silent or patient just because He doesn’t care. He is waiting for you to change, and unless you get fixed, He might throw you aside too!
Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”
If all of you took this seriously, and set the rest of your week this week by this principle, God would be glorified in your marriage, fellowship with others, at work, at school, and people would see your change!
Just as a farmer plants and waits patiently for the crop to grow, so God lets you come today on Sunday morning, hear how you need to confess sin, and will give you a window of time to change. But eventually, the planter of the Word of God will come back, and gather his crops. Jesus talked about this in a parable, saying how he will wait until the harvest, but then its too late. The weeds and the wheat will be gathered together, and the weeds will be cast out and the wheat brought in.
God wants to use all of us, but He won’t use a broken tool for very long. Please get on your knees and bow to Him, and open your hands and offer to Him everything good and bad, and let Him change you.
This is the scariest prayer you could pray today, from Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Did God use Samson? Yes. Did Samson repent? No

After Samson beat up the 30 men and used the torched foxes to destroy the agricultural economy of southern Palestine, he defeated a group of Philistines, and then killed 1,000 men with a donkey jawbone.
The summary in Judges 15:20 that is given before the end of his life, is disturbing. Normally that summary would happen at the end of the Judge’s life, but with Samson, it tells us at this point his life is basically over.
Samson was no longer useful to God
(A) Don’t let it ever be said of you. Please make this your goal, that your obituary won’t come out until AFTER you die.
Proverbs 10:30, says “the righteous will never be shaken, but the wicked will not dwell in the land.”
Proverbs 11:8, says “the righteous is delivered from trouble, but the wicked takes his place.”
(A) Are you abusing God’s patience by living in sin? Lying? Cheating? Gossipping and slandering others? Confess it. John 8:32 says, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus, who said "I am the way, the truth, and the life," offers Himself posthumously yet more alive than ever before, to all who believe He died and rose again to pay for your sin. Will you trust Him?
Christian, will you change your ways that are ungodly? Will you confess the sin that God is being patient about?

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