Monday, June 14, 2010

4 Changes for Knowing God in an Ungodly Culture, pt 2

In his prime, Mike was sought after by Six Flags Great America and Walt Disney for writing music group performances, like the show Glee. In the late 1980’s, if you went to Six Flags Great America, you could catch a show or musical written and sometimes performed by Mike and his group. He was called to the ministry, and God used his music talent and athleticism to reach hundreds of young people for Christ, and to lead God’s people in inspiring worship every Sunday. I worked with him in praise and worship, and with teen ministries for several years. When I went to Moody, he was one of the only ones who kept in touch with me and encouraged me to continue in my call to the ministry. Unfortunately, one day Mike revealed some sin that had crept in, and ended up resigning. We were shocked and devastated, and it was an ugly church-split situation. Mike had everything going for him with his talent and skill, and yet spiritually he had become weak and gave into stealing. I love him still very, very much, but it caught up to him.
If you remember, we’re studying Samson in Judges 16. So far, we have said:
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.

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

Follow the downward spiral with me, and see that in Judges 16:1-3, Samson continued his life of immorality.
Keep going and he meets Delilah, who, after her fourth attempt to seduce him into telling his secret, finally gets it out of him. Delilah is a Philistines woman (idol worshipper), and Samson not only wants a woman without marriage, but an ungodly woman. The Bible says that the first two attempts to get Samson’s secret to his strength came from the rulers of the Philistines, who supplied Delilah with the thongs and rope to tie up Samson, and offered her 1,100 shekels (28 lbs) of silver per ruler if she could subdue him. Knowing there were 5 top leaders of the Philistines, that would be 5,500 shekels, which was 550 times the annual wage of the average Philistine. If the annual wage were $25,000, Delilah would have been offered $15 million to seduce and subdue Samson. She could not resist.
Delilah was the driver the last two attempts, using everything in her power to get Samson to tell his secret, and finally succeeding. On the day she lulled him into her lap and shaved his head. Judges 16:18-21 tells us (READ IT)

I want to say two more truths about Samson and then I’m done.
3) Consider godly character as more valuable than anything else

God doesn’t care about your physical abilities or appearance as much as He cares about your character and conduct. It’s the motives that will be judged one day!
It means that though Samson had unmatched physical strength, it wasn’t enough!
God cares about the inside. Samson was unmatched physically, the most feared Israelite by the Philistine superpower of his region. He was the war hero, the mvp, the Olympic gold medalist, the NBA superstar, the hockey mvp, all of it! Yet spiritually he was weaker than a pee wee toddler just learning to play ball.
It means you can be the most handsome, beautiful, strong, fast, most skilled, but if the inside is full of ungodliness, in God’s eyes you are not handsome, beautiful, strong, fast, or the most skilled. Remember what Paul told Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:8, “for bodily discipline is of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life, and also for the life to come.”
God cares more about the inside of you than He does about the outside of you. God cares more about WHO you are, than WHAT you do for a career, or HOW MUCH money you make, or HOW MANY hours a week you work, or WHERE you came from.
This is important! Because some of you Christians think your musical or athletic skill is enough to please God, and you don’t care about growing spiritually! That’s just like Samson!
IMAGE: Would you drink out of a cup at a restaurant that was shiny clean on the outside, but dirty on the inside? God wants people who are beautiful on the inside as well as on the outside!
Everything physical is doomed to end one day, but godliness is forever!
Isaiah 40:6, 8, says, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flower of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of God endures forever”
We need a group of Christians who will be the first to make spiritual strength their priority. It starts with disciplining yourself to act more like Jesus and follow His teachings.
Like in the military: Would the Army take someone who just came to a recruiting center and put a gun in their hands and send them to Afghanistan? Would the Milwaukee Brewers take just anyone who could swing a bat and throw a ball and put them on the pitcher’s mound and in the batting rotation (some would say yes). No! In the military, it would be bad for two reasons: 1) the army’s chance of success would drop dramatically without a trained soldier, and 2) your chance of survival would drop dramatically without training.
Spiritually, we are involved in a war far more deadly than anything physical, especially because you can’t see it! It’s a war inside of you, and all around you, where Satan our enemy disguises himself as an agent of light, and your sin nature (and mine) desire to follow the devil’s temptations. And without you spending time training, the mission of Jesus building His church will not benefit from your involvement, and 2) your chances of finishing this life committed to Jesus Christ will also drop drastically.
You need to become familiar with the spiritual disciplines. Here are some basic disciplines that all believers need to be aware of, as listed by Donald Whitney in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life: Bible reading/intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, serving, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling what God is doing, and learning about the Christian life. Also, confession, accountability, humility, submission to authority, submission to each other, celebration, affirmation, and sacrifice are necessary. These take a lifetime to master, so you need to start now!
So today decide to search more for God and being like Him than any other goal you have! Young people graduating, if you want a happy life, make knowing Jesus Christ the most important thing in your life. If you get hooked on God, He will show you the good life.
Like Charles H. Spurgeon said
What the hand is to the lute, what the breath is to the flute, what is fragrance to the smell, what the spring is to the well, what the flower is to the bee, that is Jesus Christ to me;
What’s the mother to the child, what the guide in pathless wild, what is oil to troubled wave, what is ransom to the slave, what is water to the sea, that is Jesus Christ to me.

4) The last point I have is in Judges 17. Though Samson had been humiliated, and fell morally and physically, he had one more chance to be redeemed.
He was in the temple of Dagon, mocked and forced to perform for the crowd. With all the rulers in the temple, and 3,000 men and women on the roof (meaning it was full), Samson received God’s strength one more time in Judges 16:28-31. Samson sacrificed his life to glorify God!
4) Create a fresh sacrifice if you have fallen down.
If you have failed to
1) Change your lifestyle before God stirred you; and failed to 2) Confess your sin before God’s patience ran out, and failed to 3) Consider godly character above everything else in the world, then 4) Create a fresh sacrifice
God is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness, and accepts people who humble themselves and repent.
It means you are never too bad to be used by God. It means God is the God of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 10th, 100th, 1,000th, infinite chances to change! It means God is not cruel towards people who repent! If Samson could be used again, so can you! God has a purpose even for you in 2010, even after you’ve blown it, so get up, dust yourself off, and cry out to God again.
Like a gentle mother who carefully corrects her children, so God will keep correcting you, and open His arms to use you again.
Don’t get satisfied if you’ve fallen down. Get back up. Create a fresh sacrifice.
Did you hear the key word, though? Sacrifice. What did Samson give up to glorify God? Everything! He is listed in Hebrews 11 as a man of faith who served God, but he didn’t serve God by his life, but by his death. Look at Judges 16:30. It says, “thus he killed many more when he died, than when he lived.”
You, Christian, who are living with everything physical and nothing spiritual, you need to take your life and sacrifice it to God!
I have a box full of musical awards. This box represents 7 years of practicing, performing, playing music for church, school, the Christian Youth Center, Daycamp, jazz band awards in Illinois and Tennessee and in between. I say with Paul in Philippians 3, that “I consider them “skubula” that I may gain Christ and be found in Him!” That I may know Him more!
These physical abilities, mental abilities, looks, talents, and skills, mean nothing if you have no spiritual life! That’s why Jesus is so important, because He is the ONLY one who can give you life!
The great news is, no matter where you have been, you can CREATE A FRESH SACRIFICE!
Samson brought down the temple of Dagon, and all the Philistine rulers. He killed the rule of sin in his culture and in himself by one man’s sacrifice! If you will take this bold step today and throw yourself down at the cross of Jesus Christ, you will not only start clean in your own life, but God will demolish the hold of sin in your life! Do you need to break free from the habit of drinking? Create a fresh sacrifice today! Do you need freedom from the habit of gossip? Slander? Your wild tongue? Hurting yourself or others through physical abuse? Hurting your marriage through verbal abuse? Are you hateful towards your brother? All of these are traps that you can be free from! Throw it all down before Jesus Christ today. First trusting in Him as your savior by believing in His death and resurrection, and 2nd by giving Him the driver’s seat.

1) Change your lifestyle before God stirred you; and failed to 2) Confess your sin before God’s patience ran out, and failed to 3) Consider godly character above everything else in the world, then 4) Create a fresh start
Remember Mike? All talent and skill, without spiritual discipline? He was restored to ministry. He went through the hard work of confession and repentance, and God began using him again.
What about you?

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