Monday, March 9, 2015

1. Purify Your Life

Copyright March 2, 2015 by Chris Mullis
2 Kings 22:1, 3-6, 8-11
Introduction
            I’m glad we are taking some time to clean up and make repairs to the church today.  Even with normal cleaning and attention, the church building still gathers dirt and dust and things wear out and need to be repaired or replaced.  It’s good from time to time to pay special attention to the needs of our facility.
            The same is true in our personal lives.  Even if we are faithful to attend church and Sunday school regularly, do a daily devotion and pray, and help those in need, we can still pick up bad habits or drift off course in our spiritual lives.  It’s good to take some time to “detox” our lives of habits and attitudes that keep us from being all God wants us to be.  The season of Lent (the 40 days leading up to Easter) is a great time to detox.  So just as we clean up and repair our church, I challenge you to spend some time over the next few weeks cleaning up and repairing your spiritual life. 
            Today, we begin a new sermon series called “Purify” to help us purify our personal lives.  This Sunday series will run parallel to our Wednesday night video study by Craig Groeschel called “Soul Detox.”  I invite you to participate in both and feel they will help you draw closer to God as we lead up to Easter.
            I want to begin this message with a look at another “Church Detox” that took place in the Temple of Jerusalem around 624 BC.

2 Kings 22:1, 3-6, 8-11
1Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years…
  • Josiah would turn out to be godly ruler in Jerusalem, whose goodness shined brighter because it followed so much darkness. The kings that preceded him were very wicked and led the people astray.  Josiah was a godly king and when he was about 26-years-old, he embarked on an impressive campaign of reform to bring his people back to God.
In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent Shaphan son of Azaliah and grandson of Meshullam, the court secretary, to the Temple of the Lord. He told him, “Go to Hilkiah the high priest and have him count the money the gatekeepers have collected from the people at the Lord’s Temple. Entrust this money to the men assigned to supervise the restoration of the Lord’s Temple. Then they can use it to pay workers to repair the Temple. They will need to hire carpenters, builders, and masons. Also have them buy the timber and the finished stone needed to repair the Temple…
  • So we see here, they are having a “Church Detox” kind of like we are today at Pleasant Grove, only the Temple was a lot bigger than our facility and it had been a very long time since they’d cleaned up and made repairs.  But Josiah was determined to renovate the Lord’s House.  As they were cleaning and making repairs, that made a priceless discovery.
Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the court secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the Lord’s Temple!” Then Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan, and he read it.
  • This Book of the Law mentioned here was probably the first 5 books of the Bible (or a portion of those books that contained the Biblical laws. Apparently, this vital book had been lost.  We don’t know how.  Perhaps someone hid it on purpose.  Maybe it was just accidentally lost in a stack with other books.  Or maybe—as in the case of many Christian homes today—this Scripture was simply neglected until it was forgotten and lost.
Shaphan went to the king and reported, “Your officials have turned over the money collected at the Temple of the Lord to the workers and supervisors at the Temple.” 10 Shaphan also told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a scroll.” So Shaphan read it to the king.

11 When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair.
  • That Josiah tore his clothes in despair tells us two things.  First of all, Josiah had no idea that he and his people had strayed so far from God until he heard the Bible read to him.  When the Word of God was read, King Josiah could clearly see the many ways he and his people were guilty of sin.
  • Secondly, that Josiah tore his clothes tells us he was truly sorry for their sins.  Psalm 51:17 tells us that God “…will not reject a broken and repentant heart.”  King Josiah could have made excuses.  He could have reasoned that the Book of the Law was outdated and no longer applicable.  He could have blew it off and told Shaphan to just put the book away and forget about it.  Instead, Josiah was deeply convicted and repented.  King Josiah set about changing the way his people lived.  He gathered all the people—young and old—and read the entire Book of the Law to them so they would no longer be ignorant of God’s requirements.  And Josiah spent the rest of his life reforming his community and ridding it of false religion.
The Bible is Our Anchor 
            I was swimming in the ocean one time just sort of relaxing.  I wasn’t watching the beach to make sure I was staying close to my family.  I was admiring the sea gulls and pelicans that were flying overhead.  I was riding over the rolling waves as they slowly came ashore—rising and falling with each swell.  After about 15 minutes I turned to look back at the shore to see what my family was doing.  The people on the shore were completely unrecognizable.  It was as if my family had packed it up and left me there alone.  But what really happened was I had unknowingly drifted down the shoreline gently pushed by the tide until I was far away from my family.  They hadn’t moved.  I had.
This is how our lives are.  God is always the same.  His principles and standards are always the same.  He never walks away from us.  And yet, left to our own devices, we drift away from God so easily.  We don’t even know we are drifting, but when we take our focus off Christ, we begin to drift.  The current of the world around us carries us on—gently moving us until we are way off course. 
The Bible is the anchor that holds us to Christ.  It shows us how we are to live.  When we drift away, the Bible teaches us how we need to change.  If you want to purify your life, if you want to get rid of the unhealthy toxins of wrong attitudes, ideas, and that seep in over time, open your Bible and read.  If you want to know what God expects of you, it’s in His Word.  Yet most of us set our Bibles aside and forget about them.  Like King Josiah and his people in the story, the Bible becomes lost to us.
According to a recent poll by LifeWay Research, only 19% of protestant church goers read their Bible every day.[i]  A Barna study shows that only 37% read the Bible at least once a week![ii]  Meanwhile a Nielson survey says that every day the average American watches 5 hours of TV, spends over 3 hours on the internet, and listens to 2 hours of radio.[iii] 
Clearly, the primary influence on our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors is not the Bible.  It is no wonder that we as a nation—and even as Christian church goers—are drifting from solid, biblical faith.  What affect would it have on you if you reversed these statistics?  What if you turned off your TV and instead spent 5 hours a day reading your Bible?  What if you shut down your computer and spent 3 hours a day reading your Bible?  What if you turned off the radio and devoted 2 hours a day reading your Bible?  Can you imagine how our thoughts and attitudes would change for the better if we devoted that much time to God’s Word instead of all these worldly things?  Maybe we would live lives far more pleasing to God.  Maybe, there would be a great revival in our nation.
I know what you’re thinking, though.  “That’s crazy!  I’m not going to read my Bible for 2, 3, or 5 hours per day!”  Ok. Fine.  But how about 30 minutes a day?  If you read 30 minutes a day, you could read your entire Bible 3 times in one year.  Still too much?  How about 10 minutes a day?  If you read 10 minutes a day, you could read your entire Bible in one year.  Still too much?  How about 3 minutes a day?  If you read 3 minutes a day (about 1 chapter) you could read the entire New Testament in one year.

Josiah started with a renovation of the physical Temple.  That was good.  But the Lord guided Josiah to a much greater purpose.  When he found the Book of the Law and read it, he was deeply convicted as he realized just how far he and his people had drifted from God.  Josiah repented and changed the way he lived.  He began renovation of his soul.  And as the leader, he determined to lead his people back to God.
I pray the same would true for us.  Today we will change lightbulbs, tidy up our sanctuary, replace ceiling tiles, spruce up the landscaping, deep clean our kitchen…  But I pray this will only be the beginning.  I pray that each of us will move on to a deeper, more significant restoration.  I pray we will rediscover the Word of God, the Holy Bible.  I pray we will devote ourselves to read it, to study it, to discuss it with our church family, to understand and apply it.  I pray that instead of dismissing it as outdated and irrelevant material, we will accept the Bible as the true foundation of everything we believe as Christians.  I pray we will listen to what the Scriptures say and conform our lives to God’s will instead of vainly trying to conform God’s plans to our will.

Conclusion and Challenge 
            There are 28 days left until Easter.  I would like to challenge you to read your Bible every day for the next 28 days.  I challenge you to start in the Gospel of Matthew and read 1 chapter every day.  You could read in the morning, on your lunch break, before you go to bed (or whenever works for you).  Just read one chapter a day; it will take less than 5 minutes and you will read the entire Gospel of Matthew by Easter Sunday.
            Now, I’m guessing there might be around 25-30 people in this congregation that are already reading your Bible every day.  I want to challenge you too.  Keep reading your Bible, but as you do, I want you to reflect deeply on your life and pray about one way you need to change.  Maybe you have a bad habit you need to break.  Maybe you have a sin of which you need to repent.  Maybe you have an attitude you need to change.  Ask God to show you what He wants you to purify in your life and then ask Him to help you change through the power of the Holy Spirit.

[i] http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2012/september/80-of-churchgoers-dont-read-bible-daily-lifeway-survey.html?paging=off