Helping God or Enabling Satan?

Matt 16:21-25

We often think we can help God’s purposes along by doing what we think is good, loving, helpful, and noble. Some ways in which doing the right thing can be the wrong thing:  

*Bailing a loved one out of a dilemma–avoid facing consequences  

*Helping out of a bind–avoid learning the hard lesson of responsibility  

*Defending them when you don’t have the facts–your precious angel may a holy terror behind your back  

*Avoiding criticism we need to make–would you rather hurt their feelings or watch them self-destruct?  

*Hanging on to the past, either pain or people or places–fear that letting go means dropping our crutches and security blankets

 Enabling: offering the opportunity to do it again.  

*Provide an escape instead of forcing them to face the issue,  

*A chance to dodge the consequences.  

*Never feel the pain of a wrong choice.  

*False confidence that you will always save them.

Peter sought to do something like this. To prevent an innocent man from suffering public humiliation, agony, pain, torturous death–that’s a good thing. And every single one of us would have an eternity in hell if he had succeeded.

 How does God view our effort in a situation like this? v. 23 Jesus uses the word “Savor,” which comes from the same word used in Romans 8.5-6, “minded”, what the mind is focused on.  Col 3.2

MUST I STAND HERE HELPLESSLY AND JUST WATCH?

It was the Plan for Jesus to go to the cross. To most of us, suffering or pain in any form is the most awful thing to watch. Peter simply wanted to prevent it from happening. Sometimes we do this—our best intentions become devilish. Understand some things:  

*stuff happened, happens today, and will happen tomorrow.  

*stuff happens but it does not go unnoticed nor catch Him by surprise.  

*stuff happens but that stuff can be used to fulfill His plan.  

*stuff causes pain, but there is not a pain that He has not endured  

**Examine yourself–are God’s priorities my priorities?  

*What brought about this situation?  

*Will my involvement/rescue operation result in keeping my loved one from being confronted with personal sin?  

*Will my involvement possibly thwart what God is trying to build in this person?

To achieve what the Lord wants often involves pain–because to be like Christ is to be in pain. We must allow some to suffer the painful consequences of wrong choices so that they might come to repentance. Christ’s suffering, of course, was not because of His wrong choices–it was because of ours! yet for Him to be obedient, He must go to Calvary. In John 18:10-11, Peter defends Christ by cutting off a soldier’s ear. “Then said Jesus unto Peter, ’Put up your sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?’” What if Peter had killed the soldier, and they crucified Peter instead?

God’s purposes are not always easy to accept. But in the long run, they are best.

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Stop wasting life!

How do you prevent wasting your life? Well, the Bible says this in Ephesians, 5:15-17… “Be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do

Question 1: What does God want from my life?  What does that mean? What does that take? What does that involve and why should I do it? First, what does God want from you? Well, when you read through the whole Bible, you can summarize it in a couple of words. You can write this in – He wants my whole life. He wants my entire life. There is not a single verse in the Bible, not one, that says you can be a Christian and live your life any old way you want to. It’s just not there.

God wants all of you. He doesn’t want 10% of you, He doesn’t want 50% of you, He doesn’t want 99% of you – He wants all of you. Now God is very clear about this; there’s no mystery in it. Look at what the Bible says in Romans 6:13, ”Give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life. And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God”. Circle the word “completely” and circle the word “whole body”. It should be all of you. C.S. Lewis once said, “The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important”. If it’s really true, then it deserves everything you’ve got. If it’s not true, you shouldn’t be here right now. The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important. It’s either all, or nothing. It’s either true, and that should determine the rest of your life, or you should just chuck it and go do whatever you want to do.

There’re still a lot of people trying to sit on the fence. Because they say, “Well, I don’t know what God wants me to do”. Well, look at the next verse: This is what the Lord your God wants you to do: Respect the Lord and do what He has told you to do. Love Him. Serve the Lord your God with your whole being.” There’s that word “whole being” again. A lot of people try to sit on the fence. They say, “Well, I’ll serve God in my spare time”. It’s like I have this pie – I have my social life, and I have my career life, you know I have my family life and over here my retirement life and over here I have my spiritual life – as if your spiritual life is one part of the pie. Wrong. God’s the whole pie. He wants the whole pie to be under His control. He doesn’t want to be pigeonholed and you say, “You know God, I’ll give you 10% of my life”. He wants it all. He wants your whole being.

Now, there’s a myth that says that you can do it all, you can have it all, but you can’t. You have to give it all to God. Look at the next verse; let’s read it aloud together, ”No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money”.

I want you to notice the word “cannot”. He doesn’t say you “should not” serve God and money – He says you “cannot” serve God and money. He says it’s impossible. What’s He talking about? He’s saying it is impossible to have two number one priorities in your life. You’re always going to have a No.1, and everything else is going to be 2,3,4 and 5. You can’t have two number one priorities.

Now there are a lot of things besides money that can certainly push God out of First Place in your life. Work can push God out of First Place; play, sports, hobbies can push God out of First Place, friends can push God out of First Place in your life, school work can push God out of First Place in your life, dating can push God out of First Place in your life, even your own family can push God out of First Place in your life.

And He’s saying you can’t serve God and something else at the same time. He said, ‘I want it all; I want to be totally in charge of your life”. So really the question here is “what’s going to be First Place in you?” Is what’s going to be the No. 1 goal in your life building your career? Is the No. 1 goal in your life raising your family? Is the No. 1 goal of your life going to be saving for retirement? Is the No. 1 goal of your life going to be maintaining your good health? You see, all of those things are good. In fact, God created them. And God approves of every one of those things, except in First Place. God says, “You will have no other gods before me”. And whatever is in First Place in your life is your god. And any time you have something in your life that’s No. 1 that’s not God, that’s called an idol. And God says, “that’s wrong”. He says, “ I want to be No. 1 in your life before everything else, and I’ll bring it all back into focus in the right way”. He says, “I’ll put it altogether”.

One time Jesus told a story about this. Actually, it wasn’t a story; it was an event that happened in His life. He was walking down the streets of Jerusalem and a man walked up and Jesus said, “Follow me” and the guy said, “Okay, I will follow you. But Lord, let me, first, go take care of some things I’ve got to take care of”.

Now, that little phrase there – “Lord, let me first” is a contradiction. You can’t say “Lord” and “me first” at the same time. If you’re saying “me first”, He’s not your Lord. He’s not in charge. He’s not No. 1. So, you have to decide who’s going to be Lord in your life – you, or God? Is it going to be God first, or me first?

Let me ask you a very personal question – where are you saying to God, “me first”? You know, even Christians do this. Where are you saying, “God, I’ll live for you, but let me first find somebody to marry. God, I’ll live for you, but let me first finish my school. God, I’ll really serve you, but let me first get the kids out of the house. God, I’m really going be on fire for you, I’m going to do it all, but let me first achieve financial independence. Let me first pay off my mortgage. Let me first build my career. Let me first finance my kid’s college education”. And God says, “If I’m not first, none of this is going to be in right perspective”.

Jesus told the story; He said, “it’s like a king who plans a big banquet and he goes out and invites everybody to come to this wonderful banquet. He said people began to make excuses.” This verse is not on your outline… it says here “they all alike began to make excuses (this is in Luke 14). And the first said, ‘I just bought a field, and I must go and see it – please excuse me’. Another said, ‘I just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way out to try them out – please excuse me’. Still another said ‘I just got married, so I can’t come’”.

Now, think about this. These three guys are invited to a banquet by the king; they all turn him down. The first guy uses his wealth as an excuse – I just bought some land and I have to go look at it – it will still be there, but he had to go look at it. The second one used his work as an excuse – I’ve got to go and plow my field. The third guy used his wife as an excuse – I just got married. So here’s my question to you – what excuse do you keep giving to God for you putting yourself first? Lord, let me first do this, then I’ll be sold out to you. Let me first do this, and then I’ll be all yours. Let me let you in on a little secret – if you would put God first in your life, He’ll take care of everything else.

Look at the next verse. The Bible promises in Proverbs 3:6 – “In everything you do (that’s everything), put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.” I don’t know anybody who doesn’t want to be a success. You want to be a success? The Bible tells you how, right there – “in everything you do, put God first. In everything you do, put God first and he will crown your efforts with success”. Have you been trying to live a part-time Christian life? The first question of life is – what does God want? He wants all of you. And any time you sit on the fence, you lose. What does God want? Well, He wants all of you.

Question #2 – What does it take?
What does it take to not waste my life? What does it take to become all that God wants me to be? What does it takes to develop myself to my fullest potential? Well, I’m going to say it in one word. It’s a word you’re not going to like. It’s a very unpopular word. We cringe when we hear this word. We really don’t like this word. But it’s the word “discipline”. And a groan went out across the land. You might write this verse down – Proverbs 10:17. Proverbs 10:17 says Whoever practices discipline, is on the way to life”. You cannot be a disciple without discipline. The two words go together – disciple and discipline. You can’t be a disciple of Jesus without discipline.

Notice what the Bible says, 1 Timothy 4:7 “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness”. Now, what in the world is discipline? Well, in two words – discipline is delayed gratification. That’s all it is. Delayed gratification.

Discipline is doing the difficult now, in order to enjoy the benefit later. Now some of you don’t even need this definition, because you’re incredibly disciplined. Some of you are very disciplined in your work, your career. You plan your day, you’re always on time, you’re conscientious in your work habits. Some of you are very disciplined in your physical workouts. You never miss a physical workout. It’s in your routine, in your schedule. Some of you never miss a favorite T.V. show. I mean, you wouldn’t think of missing it. And of course, many of us never miss a meal. Shoot – I’ve never missed a meal in years! Not in years. You’re disciplined in some areas.

You know where you’re disciplined? In the areas you want to be. The things that are important to you, you get done. What if you were as disciplined in having a daily quiet time as you are in never missing a meal? What if you were as disciplined in serving others as you are in getting up and going to work everyday? What if you were as disciplined in attending church as you are in watching that favorite T.V. show that you never miss?

You know, there’s another word for discipline – we like this one a little bit better, so you can use this one – I give you permission for it…It’s the word “habits”. Habits are, simply, disciplines and you are the sum total of your habits. Tell me what you do habitually, and I’ll tell you what your character is. If you habitually tell the truth, you have integrity. If you are habitually faithful to your spouse, you are a faithful person. It’s what you do over and over and over without even thinking. If it’s a habit, it’s a part of your life and your whole life is designed, shaped, controlled, developed by the habits. And if you want to change your life, all you have to do is change your habits.

Notice what the Bible says, 1 Timothy 4:7 (in the Living Bible) – “Spend your time and energy in the exercise of keeping spiritually fit”. Keep spiritually fit. He says there are exercises you can do that will keep you spiritually fit, just like there are exercises you can do that will keep you physically fit. Let me just mention two. One is one I call the discipline of letting go. The discipline of letting go. That means you let go of things because you can’t keep adding things to your schedule without letting go of something else.

Hebrews 12:1 – ”Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress”. I want you to notice two words – the word “weight” and the word “sin”. Those are two things that hold you back. There are two things that keep you from being all that God wants you to be. There are two things that limit your potential in life.

There are two things that waste your life. And He says, “You’ve got to let go of these things”. One of them is “sins” and the other is “weights”. Now, you know what sins are…breaking one of the commandments of God. But what’s a “weight”? Well, a weight is something that’s not necessarily wrong; it’s just not necessary. Have you thought of that? There’re some things in life that are not necessarily wrong; they’re just not necessary.

A weight can be all kinds of things. It could be a relationship, it could be an expectation, it could be an activity, it could be a club, it could be a memory that you refuse to let go of, it could be a fear, it could be a job. There are a thousand, or hundred thousand different kinds of weights. And the Bible says, “to grow, I must learn to say no”. You can’t say, “yes” to everything. You have to say “no” to some things. You have to say “no” often to good things in order to have time for the best things. You have to say “no” to things that are not bad. In fact, they’re quite good, but you say “no” to them because you cannot do it all and have it all. And one of the reasons we have a hard time letting go of activities is we tie our identity to them. But if you are serious about fulfilling your purpose in life,  you have to make space for God in your life. And if you’re going to make space for God in your life, you’re going to have to cut some stuff out. Some good stuff, not sin, just good stuff.

I want to be honest with you. I’m concerned about you. I’m concerned about the people in our church. You can’t keep adding things to your schedule. And most of you who I know personally – I know your lives – are way too over crowded. You’ve got way too much going on in your life.

I’m telling you right now as someone who cares about you; you need to decide right now what you’re going to cut out. You can put so many irons in the fire you put out the fire. If you burn the candles at both ends, you are not as bright as you think you are. Your life’s already overcrowded, but not everything in your life is of equal value. So you need to ask, “What am I going to stop doing?” Any time you take on a new activity in your calendar, you should say, “What am I not going to do?” at the same time. Any time you take on a new habit, a new skill, a new commitment you should say, “What am I not going to do?”

Maybe you’re going to need to give up and hour a week of T.V.  That might kill somebody, I don’t know. You can go home and watch Friends, or you can to a group and make friends. I don’t know which one you’d rather do. If you say, “watch Friends” – you’ve got a problem. You need to say, “What am I going to do?” Maybe you need to go to bed 15 minutes earlier so you can get up 15 minutes earlier to do a 15 minute devotional to start your day. You just can’t keep adding stuff on. To some of you, maybe this will seem like heresy. Maybe you need to cut back on your workout and work on your spiritual workout. Maybe, because one day your body is going to decay and die. But your spirit is going to go on forever. The Bible says, “Take the time and trouble to work spiritually on your exercise”. There’s always a cost of putting God first in your schedule, but the rewards are worth it.

Now, there’s another discipline I think you might consider and that’s the discipline of putting first things first. A good example is this verse Luke 10:40-42. It talks about a couple of friends of Jesus, Mary and Martha, who are sisters. Jesus had come to visit at their home. And the Bible says, “Martha was distracted by her many tasks”. Let me stop there. Do any of you identify with that phrase? Martha was distracted by her many tasks. She didn’t have a Day timer in those days. So, she came to Him (Jesus) and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.” You see, Mary had gone and just sat at the feet of Jesus. But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you’re worried and distracted by many things”, in other words, she had spiritual ADD. He said, “but there is a need of only one thing”  and Mary has chosen the better part”. What’s He talking about? Jesus said, “If it comes down to spending time with me, or washing the dishes, there’s no competition”. When it comes down to getting the house ready, fixing the meal, or spending time with me, cause “I’m here” Jesus said, there’s no doubt what should happen.

Let me ask you, do you find yourself like Martha? Do tasks on your to-do list distract you from focusing on God? Is your life so busy, you don’t have time to stop, even for 40 Days and focus on God? You will live an average of 25,550 days. That’s what the average person lives. Don’t you think it would be smart to take 40 of those days to figure out what you should do with the rest of them? I think so. I think that’s pretty wise. You get distracted by tasks, but as you know, not every task is of equal value.

Notice the phrase there, “Mary has chosen the better part”. You know why I like that? Because it means it’s a choice. You say, “Jeff, I just can’t get it all done”. You’re right. But let me let you in on a little secret – it isn’t all worth doing. You don’t have to do it all. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head, saying you have to do it all. God doesn’t expect you to do it all. A lot of things in your “all” are self-imposed and they’re really not mandatory. You just do them – out of expectations or other things. You’ve got the time. You’ve got the time to grow spiritually. Do you want to make the time? Will you make the time, make the choice? Will you, like Mary, choose the better part?

Let me give you two verses to write down. Psalms 39:6 in the New Living Translation says, “All our busy rushing, ends in nothing”. That one ought to go on the dashboard. “All our busy rushing, ends in nothing”. In Proverbs 10:27, in the Living Bible. You want to have more time, here’s the secret in the Living Bible – “reverence for the Lord adds hours to each day.”

Put God first, and He says, “I’ll bring everything else into focus”.

I know what some of you are thinking…you say, “ I know this. I’m just not a very disciplined person”. Let’s have a little true confession. How many of you would have the courage enough to admit, “I’m not really a disciplined person”. I will lift my hand first. Anybody else want to join me? Oh, look at all of these recovering non-disciplinarians. I, by nature, am not a disciplined person. You try writing bible studies when you’re not by nature a disciplined person. It is sheer willpower, character and dependence on the grace of God that gets me through. I’d rather be talking with people, hanging out with others. Not hanging out in a room by myself. So, I’m not a disciplined person. Well, don’t worry, God will help you.

Look at the next verse.  Philippians 2:13 “God is always at work in you, to make you willing and able to obey His own purpose”. Willing and able – He gives you the desire, and then He gives you the willpower. “Not by might, not by power, but my Spirit says the Lord.” What am I saying? If you get serious and you make the choice and say “God, there are some things I will cut out of my life in order to make time to develop some new habits so that I might grow closer to you, and that you might have all of me, not just part of me, but all of me.” If you’ll just make the choice to let some stuff go by, to put some stuff on hold, to put God first, to focus on some things and say, “I’m going to come home to my first love” – God will help you and you’ll find amazing things happening in your life.

What does God want? He wants all of you, every part of you. That’s what he wants. What’s it going to take to grow? I’ll tell you what it’s going to take to grow. It’s going to take discipline. You can’t be a disciple without discipline.

Question #3: Why should I do it?
Why should I make the effort to grow spiritually? Why should I let go of some things to make time for God in my life? To make space for God in my life. Well, there are many benefits and we can spend the rest of the day just talking about those. Benefits today in your life right now, and benefits forever in eternity. But even if there were no benefits, to doing to what God tells us to do. Even if there were no benefits at all, right here on earth – I can tell you the reason why you ought to do it in two words – the Cross. Because of the Cross. Jesus gave His life completely for you and He expects your life in return.

2 Corinthians 5:15 – “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again”. He died for all. For every one of us. Jesus gave His life for every one of us in this room. Some of us have trusted Him and recognized that and enjoyed His forgiveness in our lives. Others of you, it may the first time you’ve heard this – that Jesus died for you. He loved you enough to die for you. To offer you forgiveness. He died for us so that all of us who live lives in this world – just normal, everyday lives, routine, struggles, problems, you’ve got it all, I’ve got it all – that every one of us, whatever you’re going through in your life right now, so that we wouldn’t do it just for ourselves. We no longer live lives just for ourselves.

We live our lives to the fullest. How do you live your life to the fullest? You live for Him, who died for us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. You live for Him, who died for us because He cares about us more than we can ever imagine. And in the depths of His love and care for us, He has a purpose for our lives that cannot match anything we can ever dream of. You can never bring the kind of fulfillment to your life, or joy to your life that He can bring to your life. And so we serve Him.

We couldn’t celebrate one day of purpose in our lives, except for the fact that Jesus Christ chose to leave Heaven and come to earth and give His life for us. He didn’t have to do that. He did that because He loved us. He did that because He wants us to enjoy His purposes in our lives. Just think about how amazing it is that God loves not only the world, but that He loves you, individually, right here, right now, He loves you. His blood spilt for you. He wants each and every one of us to take what happened at the cross personally. Jesus died for you. Jesus was resurrected for you. He wants to give you forgiveness. He wants to give you purpose in your life.

The Bible tells us in Ephesians 1:7 – “Through the blood of His Son, we are set free from our sins. God forgives our failures because of His overflowing kindness”.

I know this has been a long post but as I come to a close lets look at this– Romans 12:1 says this, “Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God’s compassion, I encourage you offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to Him”. Now listen, it cost Jesus to die for you and it’s going to cost you to live for Him. But He deserves it, because you would have no destiny if it weren’t for the Cross. You would have no destiny. But because of the Cross, you will live forever and you owe Him your life. God is already working in our lives, even before we were born, its true.

People matter to God. It’s far more important than anything else to do on your to-do list – the eternal destiny of people. Now I urge you,  If you’re not in a group, get in one. If you don’t have the time, make the time. The Bible says this, 2 Corinthians 6:1, “We beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us”. “Only one life will soon be passed, and only what’s done for Christ will last.”

Nothing else is going to matter. You ever wanted to be a part of a miracle? Well now’s your chance. Habakkuk 3:2, – “Lord, I have heard the news about you; I am amazed at what you have done. Lord, do great things once again in our time; make those things happen again in our own days”. God has given you the opportunity of a lifetime don’t let it pass by. Don’t sit on the fence. Don’t watch from the sideline.

Fighting the good fight…

This message is targeted at men(women this doesn’t totally exclude you). Men who have been diverted from their walk with God.  It deals with Anger, jealousy, lust and pornography.  It will be calling for the men of faith to rise up and fight. To start regaining our God ordained place in his kingdom.  We must be of strong courage, fight the good fight of faith.  Over the past several decades the role men have played in our country has declined.  There has been many studies and theories as to why this has occurred.  I believe that the primary reason for this role reversal is the lack of God.  Men have cowered down, stopped praying, stopped following God, stopped leading and stopped being the men of God that he designed us to be.  To begin to rally the troops, I wanted to start with a few men of the bible that did not finish well.  While this message is calling on men to overcome their addiction to pornography as well as its link to anger and jealousy, there is a horrific trend in women with an increased addiction to pornography.  I recently attended a boot camp for men where this was briefly touched on.  While pornography is nothing new it is playing an increasingly detrimental role in our relationships and marriages for both men and women.

Men who didn’t finish well in the Bible:

1)  JONAH:   (See Jonah Chs. 1-4)  Jonah, though reluctant at first, saw revival take place in Ninevah.  Sadly, Jonah was angry at God for showing compassion on the wicked Ninevites.  Therefore, he withdrew to the outskirts of the city and pouted under vine.  When the vine was gone, Jonah got even more angry.  How could this be?  He was called, chosen by God; yet he was angry.  His life ended in a sad state of depression and isolation.  Jonah did not finish well!  He was tripped up by anger.

Jonah’s diversion from God:  Anger!

2) SAUL:  (1 Samuel 10:1,9) Saul was annointed by Samuel, called by God and even prophesied.  Yet he eventually fell into disobedience.  Worse yet, he became jealous of a younger more talented soldier by the name of David.  Saul’s jelousy drove him to attempt murder.  He eventually fell on his own sword and tragically died.  (1 Samuel Ch. 31) Saul was known as a very jealous King.  Many men today suffer from similar emotions of jealousy and rage.  They get sucked into a comparasion trap, (judging self by others).

Saul’s diversion from God:  Jealousy.

3)SOLOMON:  (1 Kings 2:45ff)  Solomon was chosen by his Father David to ascend to the throne in Israel.  He was the wisest man ever.  He built the Temple.  Saw the Lord.  Prayed great prayers.  Yet Solomon was extremely taken by women.  (1 Kings 11:1-2)  Many men today are extremely taken by women and lust.   Like Solomon, we have a wrong appetite for women.  Having a wrong appetite for women is commonly called LUST.   Jesus said, “Anyone who looks upon a women lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  (Matt.5:29) Everytime you look at pornography and entertain lustful thoughts about someone you’re not married to, you engage in lustful thoughts and behavior.  Most pornographic episodes end in some type of masturbation event.   At best, masturbation is a self control issue, at i’t’s very worst masturbation leads to despair.  According experts, fully 60% of men who indulge in pornography followed by masturbation, entertain thoughts of suicide.   You may not have 1,000 wives and concubines like Solomon, but how many times have you indulged in lustful behavior to the detriment of your soul?  Solomon was greatly diverted from serving God by women.  Are you?  Worse yet, it could lead you down a path of despair  that could result in thoughts of taking your own life.   Scores of men have been found dead, with a nearby discharge of semen.  It’s not worth it Men.  If your masturbation habit has got the better of you.  Get help!   A man entangled in sexual sin often hides, has bouts of depression and fits of anger.  There is shame and disgrace, and he often struggles in his marriage or relationships with women.  He almost never stays involved in the Church.  He is sporadic and undependable when it comes to serving the Lord.  Why?  Because He is completely taken by something other than the Lord.  He has been diverted!  What about YOU?

Solomon’s diversion from God:  Women.

The problem of LUST has reached new heights through the availability of internet pornography.   It is estimated that more that over 50% of men are regular patrons of some form of pornography.   Pornographic pay per views and internet sites are a growing multi-billion dollar industry.  According to Dateline NBC, Porno grosses higher profit margins that all the major cable news programs (CNN, ESPN, MSN).  Men are so addicted to this stuff, that money ceases to be an object to pleasure seeking.   Just like Solomon, we will stop at nothing to experience the adrenalin high of looking lustfully upon a woman.  Now, I want to tell you what to do if you’re involved with Pornography?  Let’s get practical, I’m here to help you today…

1.) Get HELP from a Pastor!  Or counselor.
2.) Unsubscribe to the internet at home.  Pull the plug today!
3.) Confess to your wife, give her permission to get help as well.
4.) Find an accountability partner through the Church
5.) Attend a ‘Breaking free’ seminar or ‘Recovery class’
6.) Rekindle your relationship with God by regular Church attendance and discipline study and prayer.

What will keep your heart from a fully devoted walk with Jesus Christ?  Are you going to let pornography and lust keep you from finishing the race?  The good news is that you don’t have to, Jesus Christ can give you power over the problem of pornography.  He can set you free to finish the race.

The good news is this:  You can finish the race, and finish well.  You don’t have to get diverted.  You must first be willing to FIGHT!  Take up the weapons of warfare in Ephesians Ch. 6 and get on the offense.  The Devil wants to devour and divert.  God want’s you to conquer and win!   You + God = Majority.   You can win the battle over jealousy, anger and pornography.  But you have to be willing to fight.  In the military, orders are given to ‘fire when fired upon.’  Today we have been fired upon by the enemy of our soul!  It’s time to rise up and fight this battle!  The sword of the spirit is an offensive weapon.  What we need today is men filled with the spirit that are not afraid to fight.  On the battle field, if a soldier disobeys orders when fired upon and acquiesces to the enemy; there is no longer a place for that soldier.  The same is true with us, if we are not willing to fight the enemy who is battling us with fervor, then one must wonder what place is ours in the army of the Lord?  Men of Faith, rise up FIGHT!  You can win the war, but not with out first taking up spiritual arms and waging an all out fight to the finish with Satan.  Ephesians 4:27 says, “And do not give the devil a foothold.”

Men and women if pornography is an issue in your life today, take the bold step of faith and declare that Satan can no longer have this foothold in your life and you will not let it destroy you, your relationships or your family.  I would like to extend a offer of help to anyone out there that needs help. There are resources available to help you overcome this addiction.  Send me a message if you would like to help or need help, I will fight with you and get you the help you need. Will you stand up, will you rise up, will you regain your life through Jesus Christ and join me in fighting the good fight of faith for the Kingdom?

Are you settling for less?

I do what I do because I obey God.”  But why do you obey God?  You either do it out of fear, guilt, hope of reward or some other reason.  In other words, you obey maybe to appease God, to appease your guilt, to gain a promised reward or even to achieve a sense of accomplishment in fulfilling your duty to God.  You are still doing what you do to avoid a loss or gain a benefit.

Such motivation is not condemned in the Bible.  In fact, we are encouraged many times by Jesus not only to avoid a loss but to gain the very best benefit.  Jesus in Mark 8:36 asks, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”  Jesus is challenging us to look out for what is most important, and work to gain that.

In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”  Here again, Jesus is calling us not to settle for things that won’t last forever.  He appeals to our desire for the best!

Someone tells the story about a thief who broke into a department store at night.  Instead of stealing the items off the shelves, this thief decided to switch the price tags on every item.  He took the price tags off of big screen TVs and put them on ceramic mugs.  He replaced the price tags of leather jackets with those from the face towels, and so on.  When morning came, mass confusion began within an hour of the store’s opening.  People were paying 2 dollars for leather jackets and 2,000 dollars for ceramic mugs.

We really aren’t that aware of the value of things; our judgment is greatly influenced by marketing efforts.

We live in a world where the value tags have been switched and determined by supply and demand.  The problem is the world and Satan hide the supply and we search for them in the wrong places, and the world and Satan increase the demand with marketing schemes that feed our selfishness.  Only God has the correct price list on everything, including life and what matters.

So if we are to gain what is best, we would do well to check out God’s correct price list before we buy.  Paul gives us a look into that price list, and he shows us three ways not to pay too much for too little.  Take a look at Philippians 3:7-11.

The FIRST way not to settle for less than the best is not to allow the good to be a liability to the best.  We read this in verses 7 and 8.  Paul is saying that what he considered gains are actually liabilities when compared with the greatness of knowing Christ.

We can look back at verses 5 and 6.  Paul had a right start in life, having the outward sign of circumcision.  Paul’s heritage as a Hebrew Jew made him the purest of God’s chosen people.  Paul’s participation as a Pharisee gave him the most respected religious position in his culture of his time.  Paul’s zeal against the church gave him the reputation of defender of the Jewish faith.  And Paul’s obedience to the law made him perfect in the eyes of the Jewish people and in his own eyes.

Yet, when he came across the resurrected Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, he was temporarily blinded so that he could regain true sight to realize that all the good things he possessed or achieved were obstacles to the best thing, a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.  (If you are not familiar with this happening, take 5 minutes  to read the book of Acts, chapter 9.)

What are the good things in our lives that keep us from the best thing, a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ?  Is it our family?  Some people never follow Christ, and thus never get to know Christ, because following Christ brings division in their family.   I had one friend who asked, “Are you saying that if I receive Christ into my life for a right relationship with God, I would go to Heaven, but if my family does not, they would not go to Heaven?”
I told her that’s what the Bible says.   Then she replied, “I can’t accept that.”  This gal allowed the good, her love of her family, to be a liability to the best, knowing Christ as the Son of God who died for her sins, and for the sins of the world, including her family’s.

What other good things in our lives keep us from the best thing, a growing personal relationship with God through trusting in and knowing Jesus Christ?  Is it our career?  Is it money?  Is it our reputation?  Listen to the words of Jesus again, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?”  The principle of “not allowing the good to be a liability to the best” works in our spiritual life as well as in every area of life.

The SECOND way not to settle for less than the best is to receive humbly what we cannot earn.  We read this in verses 9.

The word righteousness, when used by Paul, means a right standing with God or peace with God.  In his earlier days as a Pharisee, Paul tried to live out the law of God perfectly in order to have a right standing with God.  Gradually, Paul began to understand that the law of God was God’s instrument to show us our helplessness to earn a right standing with God.  Paul wrote to the Galatians explaining, “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ.”  God knew that unless our pride was broken by our inability to measure up to an objective standard, we would compare ourselves with one another and try to earn a right standing before God.  With God’s law, we no longer compare ourselves with others but with God’s holy expectation.  Those of us who acknowledge our inability to measure up to God’s expectation humble ourselves to receive God’s solution through Christ for a right standing with God.

If you are still trying to earn such righteousness, you are settling for less than the best.  You may have an intact pride temporarily, but you will have a broken relationship with God eternally.  Only through trusting Christ as your solution for righteousness can you possess a right standing with God.

The THIRD way not to settle for less than the best is to follow the One Who has first-hand experience.  We read this in verses 10 and 11.

Paul wanted to know Christ and the power of Christ’s resurrection for his life.  Paul didn’t want to know what others had to say about life after death, because no other person had ever died, come back to life, received a new body and ascended to Heaven.  Only Christ qualified.  Records of people who were raised from the dead eventually died again.

Others spoke about life after death during their lives, but never did they come back to confirm such a reality.  Today, we hear silly notions like, “We’re just like the plants that die during the winter but come back to life the following spring.”  I’m sorry, I just can’t make that kind of a stretch in my imagination.  I don’t have roots, stems or leaves.

Still others say, “There must be life after death; I haven’t done all that I feel called to do.”  I hate to tell them, but they should have managed their time better.  Poor time management is no support for life after death.

Jesus Christ, on the other hand was not a dreamer in that His claim of victory over death was not an escape from reality.  Christ dealt with the reality of fallen humanity.  He ministered to the outcasts of society, to the sick and to the suffering.  His response to His own suffering was intentional endurance for God’s redemptive process.  He submitted Himself to death on a cross to pay for our sins.  The principle of “following the One Who with first-hand experience” works in our spiritual life as well as every area of life.

Paul was willing to know Christ and to endure the suffering associated with knowing Christ.  Paul lived according to Christ’s teachings, because Christ’s resurrection substantiated all His claims while He lived.  Paul’s suffering for Christ in prison could lead to his execution or to his release.  He doesn’t know yet.  When Paul wrote in verse 11, “and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead,” he wasn’t sure whether he would be raised with the dead or raised from the dead.

The Bible teaches that if we trust in Christ, we too will attain the resurrection, whether by death or by Christ’s return.  1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 read, “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him (meaning those who died).  According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”

In Mark 8:38, Jesus affirmed, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”  Putting this in the positive, Jesus is saying, “If you stand with Me now, I will stand with you later at the resurrection.”  To do otherwise would be settling for less.