Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Act Different

Introduction
            Long ago, God chose you to be Holy and different--to think different and to act different.  Thoughts and actions go hand in hand.  The way you think about things changes the way you act.  But sometimes, the way you act can change the way you think.  Today I want to share how God's Holy people are supposed to act different than the rest of the world.  Listen to what the Word of God says. 

Ephesians 4:17-32
17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Characteristics of Ungodly People
            The Ephesians passage list some characteristics of ungodly people.  It uses the word "Gentiles", but in the context Gentile just means anyone who doesn't follow Jesus Christ.  Gentiles are the ungodly and the passage begins saying they have a dark mind.
            The recent violence and terrible tragedy in Las Vegas has been on everyone's mind.  We don't understand why someone would shoot all those people.  They are still investigating to find a motive.  The shooter doesn't seem to fit any of the usual profiles.  So far as authorities can tell, he wasn't an Islamic terrorist, a white supremacist, a radicalized black lives matter protester, or anything else.  All we know is his actions prove he had a dark mind.  And we say, "How can anyone doing something like that?  I would never do something like that!"  But we must recognize, the same darkness that was in that man is in every human heart.  We are sinful, fallen creatures.  We may never pick up a gin and shoot someone, but we do other things that hurt people that don't make any sense because we are broken inside.  Christians are those who admit we are broken beyond repair and desperately need Jesus to heal us and save us. 
            The ungodly have a dark mind and hard hearts and they have closed their minds against God.  They refuse to let Him be Lord and continue to seek their own selfish designs.  Ephesians says they have no sense of shame, live for pleasure, and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
            The point Paul is making is not to say how bad the ungodly are and compared to Christians. Paul is saying this is how you once were, but now Christians aren’t to be like that anymore. We are to be different.


Christians Act Different             Ephesians tells how Christians are to act different.  Christians are to stop telling lies.  We have to be honest with each other, even when the truth is awkward or difficult or goes against generally accepted beliefs.
            And the passage says "Don’t let anger control you.  Notice, it doesn’t say don’t get angry, but don’t let your anger control you.  Anger is a natural emotion--especially in the face of evil and injustice like we saw in Las Vegas.  Anger can motivate you to act when you need to act, but don't let anger control you.  Do loose you temper and let anger make you do or say something you shouldn't.
            And the passage says to quit stealing.  Work hard and give.  Notice, it's not enough just to stop stealing.  Christians act different by going even further and being generous, which is actually the opposite of stealing.
            Christians should be different because we don’t use foul or abusive language.  Now, if you've grown up in church or among polite people, you might shake your head in agreement.  Don't cuss.  But Christian differentness is so much more than refraining from profanity. 
             Saturday morning, I stopped by Ace Hardware to pickup something I needed for my "Dry Bones" truck (which I was entering in a car show at Grove Level Baptist Church).  I don't have time to tell you all about Dry Bones, but here's a couple pictures.  (Maybe I can share the story of Dry Bones at another time.)
            Anyway, as I checked out, the cashier asked if that was my truck outside.  "Yes ma'am," I said. 
            "Do you mind of I come out and take a look at it?"
            "Sure." I said and we went out and she looked it over.  She immediately exclaimed, "Man!  That's cool as heck!"  Only, she didn't say heck.  So we were walking around it and got to the back tailgate where there is this big wooden cross and she repeated, "Man! That is cool as heck!"  (Only she didn't say heck."  And then she looked over at me and saw I was wearing a Christian t-shirt, my Pleasant Grove church hat, and a cross necklace.  And she said, "And your a Christian."
            "Yes ma'am."
            "And you go to church."
            "Yes ma'am."            "And I just cussed in front of you."
            And I said, "Yes ma'am, but don't you worry about it.  I'm not offended and God loves you."
            I don't think God is too terribly upset with that lady for her choice of words.  It's a small thing.  On the other hand, I had a Christian who was a member of a church I used to pastor years ago make some abusive remarks on a Facebook post Saturday afternoon.  The ironic thing is she considers herself a ultra-devote Christian which is why she blasted the UMC and people who attend it because she thinks we aren't "holy" enough.  And I think God was much more disappointed in her comments than He was with the fact that the lady in Ace used a 4-letter word to express her admiration of my truck.
            Act different.  Speak life and hope as verse 29 says:  “…Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”  Verse 31 hints at what real foul language is.  It says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”
            We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard. We have acted like ungodly people at one time or another. However, the Word of God teaches us to let the Holy Spirit of God invade our hearts and change us so we act different.
            Verse says, “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  Christians act different. We are kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving.  Some will say, "Yeah, but I know some non-Christians who are kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving."  The difference is why Christians act these way.  We are different because Jesus Christ acted that way toward us first.  Christians act different because of what Christ did for us when we didn't deserve it.


Christians Act Different Because We Never Give Up
            Good people will eventually run out of goodness within them.  Christians never will because our source of goodness is not us--it is beyond us; it is in our eternal Lord, Jesus.  In Christ, there is always hope. 
            The symbol for Christianity is the cross.  The cross is not a decoration or piece of jewelry.  The cross is an instrument of torture and death.  Our Founder was crucified on it.  And everyone--including Jesus' closest followers--thought it was over and done and all hope was lost.  They saw him die; they saw him put in the tomb.  But then on the third day, Jesus rose from the grave.  There is always hope!  And everytime we look at a cross, we are reminded--the is always hope!  Never give up!
           The Holy Spirit works within Christians to change us and make us act different.  You don’t have to change all at once.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the great degree you feel you need to change your actions to live up to Jesus' example.  Remember, following Jesus is a journey.  You make it one step at a time.  Don’t get overwhelmed and give up, just let the Holy Spirit change you little by little, day by day, and soon you will start to look back and see just how far you’ve come.  Trust Jesus to take you from the person you are now to the person God wants you to be.

Are You Ready to Act Different?
            Spend time talking to Jesus.  Is Jesus your Lord? Your all in all?  Is He the most important priority in your life?  When Jesus is your all in all, you think different and act different.  When Jesus is your all in all, there is a fire down deep in your bones that drives you to love God and love your neighbor.  You might get tired sometimes, but then the Lord fills you with new energy, and renewed drive, and bold courage, and relentless ambition, and Holy Ghost power, and Spiritual energy, and YOU GET OUT THERE AND CHANGE THE WORLD!  Pray to the Lord today and tell Him you want to follow Jesus from this day forward and ask for the Holy Spirit to fill you and lead you.  Amen.