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Showing posts with label perfection. Show all posts
Showing posts with label perfection. Show all posts

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.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Perfect Them in Love

Introduction
            The people of Pleasant Grove UMC are being the body of Christ.  Click here to watch Jeremy, Allie, and Sara share how Jesus is blessing them at PGUMC.  They are growing in faith, hope, and love thanks to Jesus Christ.
            1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” Faith, hope, and love are the core components of the promise we—as a congregation—make to people who become members of Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church. We promise to “...do all in our power to increase their faith, confirm their hope, and perfect them in love.”  In my previous two blogs, I talked about how we can help increase faith and confirm hope in others. Today I want to consider the greatest virtue—love.  

1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

The Greatest is Love
            Perhaps you remember a brash, young boxer who used to boast, "I am the greatest!" Mohamed Ali was possibly the greatest boxer of all times and his ability to boast and talk trash was even greater than his boxing ability.  However, true greatness, the greatest greatness, the only greatness that will last is love.
[Slide – Love is patient and kind…]
            Love is not a warm fuzzy feeling. The love the Bible describes is very different from the love we hear about from the world in movies and love songs. Love is what we do for one another when we act sacrificially. Love is full of patience & kindness.  love honors others.  Love protects, trusts, hopes forgives, and reconciles.  Love gives to others sacrificially.  Jesus is the greatest example of love.
            When I look at the way Jesus loved people and when I read how 1 Corinthians 13 describes love, I don't read anything about how another person makes you feel—how they give you goose bumps or make you tingle or how happy they make you feel.  The Bible teaches us love is what we do for others even if we get nothing in return.

Perfection
             John Wesley believed we could reach perfection in this lifetime. Wesley caught a lot of flack from theologians who scoffed at the idea of perfect people. People today might be skeptical of his assertion too.  Obviously, people are far from perfect. Even mature, faithful Christians—well advanced in years—still sin (if only in the sense that they occasionally make mistakes). Can we really be perfect?                         We may not be perfect in the sense that we never make mistakes, but, with God's help, we can reach the point that everything we do is perfectly motivated by love.  Perfect love does not mean we will never make mistakes. It means everything we do is motivated by love for God and love for our neighbor. Thus, even when we make a mistake, when it is motivated by love, the Holy Spirit can take our mistakes and turn them into good.
            I once gave my wife a Mother's Day gift I thought was perfect.  I was so proud of myself.  It wasn't a last minute gift.  I planned it weeks in advance.  I knew Kelly liked Tervis' insulated water cups and I found out you can make a customized Tervis.  So, I got online and designed on with a picture of our family and the message: "We Love You, Momma!"  I was so excited for Kelly to open the gift, thinking she would really love it.  When she opened it, she said, "You misspelled my name.  I spell it Mama."  Well, I felt terrible, but we had a good laugh because Kelly is a gracious, patient, loving person and she knew it was the thought that counts and that I had honestly tried out of love to honor and appreciate her.  To this day, we will occasionally have a laugh when we call Kelly Momma instead of Mama.  Even when we make a mistake, God can use it for good when it is motivate by love.
            Your goal as a Christian should be to grow in love toward perfection.  You should aim to reach perfection (in love) before you leave this world. Hope for it. Train for it. Work for it. Strive for it.

The Holy Spirit Enables Us
             The Holy Spirit empowers us to grow spiritually. When we open ourselves up to the power of the Holy Spirit, we can mature as Christians. We can grow in the fruits of the spirit—love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We can grow in faith, hope, and love when we let the Holy Spirit work in us.
            We don’t cause the growth. It comes from God. Suppose an eight-year-old child decides they don't like being eight and want to be sixteen.  So he closes his eyes and grits his teeth and concentrates as hard as he can on being a sixteen-year-old.  Can he make himself sixteen?  Of course not.  That's absurd! Only God can make a child grow.  However, there are things a child can do to cooperate with God's power and open themselves up to the healthy growth God wants to give. They can eat their fruits and vegetables, get enough sleep at night, pay attention in school, learn to obey their parents, etc.  These are things that will help a child mature over time.
            Similarly, you cannot make yourself grow spiritually.  Only the Holy Spirit can do that. However, there are some things you can do to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and open yourself up to growth.  You can pray daily and worship with other believers every week.  You can study your Bible and learn God's ways and will for your life.  You can serve others.  You can give of your time and money.  You can celebrate Holy Communion (we share Holy Communion at Pleasant Grove UMC the first Sunday of each month).  You can look to a groups of trusted Christians friends to hold you accountable.  These are things that will open you up to the growth the Holy Spirit wants to work within you.  Over time, you will mature and grow in your faith, hope, and love.  One day, you may find everything you do is motivated perfectly by love.

Conclusion
             We perfect one another in love by loving one another. Love gives birth to love.
Jesus gave the ultimate example. You see, it is not that we loved God. God first loved us. While we were still sinners, Jesus came and died for us to forgive us our sins. His love inspires true love in us.
God reached out to us in love—even though we didn't deserve it. And because He loves us, we can love Him. We can also love one another, because He loves us all. Even the worst among us is loved by God and can be loved by us if we allow the Holy Spirit to move in us. And when we love the unlovable, it can change them.
            We perfect each other in love by loving each other. Even when your brother or sister doesn't deserve love, love them anyway. This is our promise to each other. It is also how we perfect each other in love. For your love—freely offered—is the hope that love will grow in others. Love gives birth to love.
            So, brothers and sisters, I implore you to increase one another's faith, confirm one another's hope, and perfect one another in love all for the glory of God!