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Showing posts with label Cleansing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cleansing. Show all posts

Monday, March 1, 2021

What Happens in Vegas

In February of 2003, an ad campaign began that USA Today named the most effective of the year.[i]  “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  Since then, the slogan has become a mainstay pop culture, inspiring two Hollywood movies, a song by Usher, and even First Lady, Laura Bush got in on the action, using the tagline in a discussion with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show in 2005. 

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  I guess that’s a good thing.  Vegas has made a name for itself as an immensely popular getaway destination.  You can eat, party, gamble, see the sights, see the lights (and see some things you shouldn’t see!).  There are concerts, magic shows, and entertainment of all sort—both of the wholesome and unwholesome kind.  All this entertainment draws nearly 50 million people to “Sin City” every year.  People come from all over to forget about the worries of life for a little while, let their hair down, and have a good time. 

Vegas also hosts around 20,000 meetings and conventions annually.  It was just such a convention that attracted my wife and I to Vegas a few years ago.  Kelly attended a Neonatal nursing convention and we decided to extend the trip a few days and make it a nice getaway.  However, we were much more interested in the sights outside of Los Vegas in the surrounding dessert.  We went hiking in Red Rock Canyon.  We drove over to see the Grand Canyon.  While Kelly was attending her conference, I drove out and saw the Valley of Fire State Park and also part of Death Valley (one of the hottest places on earth that is 282 feet below sea level).  We did walk around the city together one night.  It was interesting to see the neon lights, the crowds, the architecture, the water fountains.  But to be honest, Kelly and I are not huge fans crowded cities.  We like peace and quiet. 

Well, the slogan “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is quite popular.  People like to have a place where they can do whatever they want without anyone else know about it.  And who hasn’t done something at one time or another they would prefer to keep secret?   

The truth is you don’t have to go to Vegas to live out a secret life.  In the internet age, all you need is a few clicks and you can find almost anything you want and no one has to know about it. Maybe we should change the slogan to: “What happens on the internet, stays on the internet.” 

The internet is the default place now where people go to live a secret life.  You don’t have to get on a plane and fly to Vegas.  You don’t have to spring for an expensive hotel room.  All you need is Google.  Stats from my Google search this morning revealed 35% of off all downloads from the internet are pornographic.  Who knew?  “What happens in Vegas (or on the internet) stays in Vegas.” 

In this series, we take what the world says and compare it to what Jesus said.  So, what did Jesus say?

Luke 12:2
The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.

Human nature hasn’t changed much in 2,000 years.  In Jesus day, the Pharisees were the most popular, well-respected religious/political groups in Israel.  Pharisees were known for their religious devotion.  They believed in God and taught people to follow God with extreme devotion.  They tried to lead by example.  They studied the Bible “religiously”—many having memorized the first five books of the Bible by age 12![ii]  Can you imagine?  (And that includes Leviticus and Deuteronomy, what many consider two of the dullest books in the Bible!) 

Pharisees believed the way to earned God’s blessing and inherit eternal life was to live the Torah perfectly--only then did a person deserve the right to be called God’s chosen.  So, the Pharisees tried to live holy lives.  They tried hard.  By outward appearances, the Pharisees it appeared to many they were perfect. 

Romans 3:23
Unfortunately, there is a dark truth about human nature that no one can escape.  Romans 3:23 spells it out in the New Testament.  “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” 

It doesn’t matter how hard we try to live a perfect life, we all fail.  You fail.  I fail.  Even the pope fails.  (And that’s if we are really, really trying!  A lot of people aren’t even trying to be good!)  The Pharisees did try.  They tried really hard, but even the Pharisees failed.  However, they had an image to uphold.  Their reputation ensured they stayed in power.  Even thought they knew themselves well enough to know they were not perfect, they had to keep up appearances to maintain their position in society. 

So, Pharisees did a lot of things to support the image of being religious and devout.  They would gather a crowd on a street corner and pray long, religious prayers for everyone to see.  They would go through town and ring a bell as they handed out money to the poor.  They would wear long, flowing religious robes that made them stand out as holy. They sat in the places of highest honor in the synagogues and at religious festivals.  All these things Jesus pointed out and condemned because they were only for show—to make people think the Pharisees were more perfect than they were. 

Of course, a lot of people already knew the Pharisees weren’t so perfect.  No one can maintain a fa├žade of perfection.  There’s always someone, somewhere who knows the truth.  And ultimately, God knows the truth.  Nothing is kept hidden from Him—even what you do in Vegas

The Pharisees couldn’t fool God and neither can you.  One day, Jesus said, everything “that is secret will be made known to all.”  What you did in Vegas, what you did on the internet, even your deepest secret thoughts that no one else knows about will be revealed. 

But there is Good News.  You don’t have to be perfect in order to earn God’s love, forgiveness, and salvation.  God already loves you!  God loves you so much, He came down to our broken world and laid down His own life for us on the cross.  This proves that God doesn’t want to condemn us, but to save us.  For while we were still sinners, Christ came and died for us. (Romans 5:8)

And as 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

And so, God says to us all, “Come now, let’s settle this. Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.”   (Isaiah 1:18) 

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17) 

Won’t you turn from your sins and turn to God today and let Him wash you clean.  What happened in Vegas (or whatever) doesn’t have to stay in Vegas.  It can be forgiven and washed away completely, forever! 

So “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.”  Live for God from this day forward.  Leave the past behind and press on toward the future God has for you, and the eternal life that is the hope and reward of all who follow Christ as Lord.


Monday, April 27, 2015

I Have a NEW Heart!

Copyright April 21, 2015 by Chris Mullis
Ezekiel 36:25-27

            I love springtime!  It is my favorite time of year.  I love the weather.  I love the longer days.  But most of all, I love seeing earth spring forth into NEW life.  Trees are budding.  Flowers are blooming.  It is a glorious thing to behold. 
With spring, come caterpillars feeding to prepare themselves to transform into butterflies.  Abigail has a “pet” caterpillar in a jar.  She named him Larry.  Larry has already built a cocoon. Soon Larry will transform into a butterfly (or more likely a moth).  It’s such a pleasure to behold the excitement of a child studying this process—to see it through their eyes.  Abigail also has a “pet” worm, but it won’t build a cocoon. I was joking with Abigail and asked if her worm was going to turn into a butterfly too.

“No!  Worms don’t turn into butterflies!”  She said, “That’s the difference between worms and caterpillars!”
Wisdom from the mouth of an 8-year-old.  The difference between worms and caterpillars: God doesn’t turn worms into butterflies.  Do you have the faith to let God transform you into something NEW?  Are you a worm or a caterpillar?
            If you have faith in Jesus Christ—if you trust him with life and your eternity—God will transform you into a NEW creation.  He will give you NEW desires, a NEW way of thinking, and a NEW purpose in life.  Today I want to talk about God’s promise to give us a NEW heart.  Let’s look back into the Old Testament at the words of the prophet Ezekiel written over 500 years before Christ was born. 

Ezekiel 36:25-27
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.”

Explain the Passage
            Ezekiel lived during the Old Testament period of our faith.  We usually forget what a blessing it is to live in our time as opposed to Ezekiel’s time.  You see the whole character of life transformed when Jesus rose from the grave.  He ushered in a NEW Covenant between God and humanity. 
            In the Old Covenant, people were given rules (Laws) to help them avoid God’s judgment.  God said: If you obey my laws, I will be bless you.  If you disobey my laws, I will punish you. (summary of Deuteronomy 26:1-46)  That was the agreement.  The problem was most people only followed the rules to avoid punishment and receive a blessing.  There was very little sense of actual right and wrong—it was mostly about reward and punishment.  People didn’t necessarily want to do the right thing.  They just wanted to be blessed and avoid the God’s wrath.  Following the law was just a mechanical thing people did.  It was not motivated by love.
            Prophets used to lament this lack of love in people.  Perhaps the prophet Isaiah said it best in Isaiah 29:13, “And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.”

            When Jesus rose from the grave, He ushered in a NEW agreement (a NEW Covenant).  In the New Covenant, love is the only rule.  St. Augustine described Christianity this way.  He said, “Love God and do whatever you want.”  You see if you love God, you can do whatever you want because you will only want to do the right things if you truly love God.  In the NEW Covenant, Jesus offers us a NEW heart that loves God and sincerely desires to do good and not evil.
And all this is what Ezekiel predicted.  Five hundred years before Christ came, Ezekiel prophesied:
·      Vs 25a – “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean.  Your filth will be washed away…”  Since Jesus paid the price for our sins when he died on the cross, we who trust in Christ have been cleansed.  Our sins are washed away!  And how is it that we commemorate this cleansing by Jesus when a person decides to become a Christian?  We sprinkle people with water when we baptize them.
·      Vs 25b "…and you will no longer worship idols.”  An idol is not necessarily a statue.  An idol is anything that takes the place of God in our heart.  Money can be an idol.  Power can be an idol.  Sex or your job or your family can become idols in your heart.  In the story of creation found in Genesis, the forbidden fruit was an idol for Adam and Eve because they desired it more than they wanted to obey God.  You see, there has always been this crazy tendency within the human heart to replace God with something else.  It is the primal sin.  And God promised through Ezekiel, that one day we would stop doing this.  And here’s how God accomplishes this in us.
·       Vs 26 – “I will give you a new heart… a tender, responsive heart.”  Ezekiel dreamed of the days we live in right now!  We live under the NEW Covenant—when we can receive a NEW heart from God—one that wants to do the right thing and no longer wants to do evil!  Because Jesus died and rose from the grave, you can have a NEW heart! 

A NEW Heart
            Christ gives us an amazing opportunity!  We can have a NEW heart!  And here’s what it looks like: 
·       Vs. 26 – “…I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”  [Some of you may have been hurt, betrayed, or disappointed so that your hearts have grown cold.  You can’t trust anymore.  You’re afraid to feel.  It’s like your heart has become cold and stony.  Your cold, stony heart isolates you from further pain and disappointment, but it also keeps you from experiencing life, love, and relationships in their fullness as God intended.  Ultimately, your cold, stony heart separate you from God—the source of life.  If you go on living with your cold, stony heart, you’re going to die spiritually.  But you don’t have to.  If you trust Jesus, he will give you a NEW heart that is tender and responsive.
·       Some of you have dirty, filthy hearts.  Even though you look nice on the outside, on the inside you harbor evil thoughts, selfish desires, and unkind attitudes.  You know this is not the way you should be, but you don’t know how to change.  Jesus can wash away your filthy heart and give you a NEW, clean heart.
·       Some of you are not so bad.  If fact, you’ve spent most of your life trying really hard to follow all the rules.  Your parents taught you right from wrong and you’ve tried to lived up to everyone’s expectations.  Sure you’ve made mistakes along the way (who hasn’t?), but overall you’d say you’re a pretty good person.  But I’ve got news for you:  More than anyone else, Jesus wants to give you a NEW heart.  You see, no matter how “good” you are, you can never be good enough.  If you’ve been trying to get along in life by simply following the rules, you have misunderstood God’s intention for you entirely.  God doesn’t want you to follow the rules.  God want you to do what’s right.  (And following the rules and doing what’s right are not necessarily always the same thing.)  You see, you (just like everybody else) need a NEW heart—one that is guided by God’s Holy Spirit, one that has His laws written upon it, one that always knows intuitively how to do the right thing at the right in the right way.  You need a NEW heart. 

            Do you trust Jesus to give you a NEW heart?  You see, faith is the key that unlocks the power of Christ to transform you.  That’s the difference between a caterpillar and a worm.  A caterpillar and a worm both crawl around on the ground.  But only the caterpillar builds its own tomb, seals it, and waits to see what God will do.  And what looks like the end for the caterpillar, God’s sees as a butterfly. 
            Are you a worm or a caterpillar?  Do you trust God enough to let your old heart die so Jesus can give you a NEW heart?  Would you like to go on living with your old heart (which is not really living at all, just existing), or would you rather trust Jesus to give you a NEW heart and a NEW life—true life?
            God invites us all to trust in Jesus and receive a NEW heart.  That is your choice today.  How will you choose?  Are you a worm or a caterpillar?