Thursday, January 3, 2008

Refusing INSANITY in 2008

This is the day that the Lord has made! I WILL rejoice and be glad in it. Rejoicing, thanksgiving, praise and worship are all participated in by CHOICE not CIRCUMSTANCES. Regardless of your circumstance, you can and SHOULD rejoice. Your circumstance can and will change, but God never does or will. Why don't you make the choice right now to PAUSE and give God praise?

Pray with the ACTS model (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication-needs) (15 Minutes)

Adjust your schedule to include AT LEAST 15 minutes of Bible reading today (that's all it takes to read through the Bible in a year)

Use 10 minutes to meditate on what you have just read and then JOURNAL your thoughts

Scripture memorization for 10 minutes

Embrace God's presence throughout the day with one minute prayers (at red lights, coffee breaks, etc)

When you follow this acrostic of PAUSE, then you will spend 50 minutes to an hour with God every single day. Can you imagine what change would take place inside of you if you would practice this discipline? Why not start today? Remember the definition of INSANITY? "Doing the things that you have always done, and expecting different results." If you do what you have always done, you will get the results that you have always gotten. If you want to CHANGE, then you have to CHANGE. Make up your mind to PAUSE every day, and you will change from the inside out.

I am excited about 2008! But for us to accomplish what God wants us to, the PRICE will be GREAT in 2008. What do I mean by that? Make sure you attend our services at First Assembly Sunday morning to find out. I plan to preach a message entitled, "The Price will be great in 2008"

Romans 12:1-2 talks to us a little bit about this PRICE: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

In this verse, Paul tells us that we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices. In the past, those who worshipped the Lord offered sacrificial animals as a way of paying for their sin. Now, says Paul, we should go beyond the offering of animals we should offer ourselves to God.

Let me clarify a couple of things. First, note that we are to present our bodies to God as living sacrifices "because of" or "in response to" God's mercy. We are not doing these things in an effort to gain or earn God's mercy. There are people all over the world who are trying to earn their way into heaven.

  • they hope to give enough money
  • serve on enough committees
  • visit enough needy people
  • go on enough mission trips
  • learn enough Bible verses
  • sing enough songs
  • attend enough church services
  • get enough people to like them
  • receive enough awards

that will earn them God's favor.

The Bible is quite clear. We cannot earn God's favor. We have already destroyed God's standards with our sinfulness. We cannot undo what we have done. It is like shattering a window. Once you have broken the window you cannot put it back together again. You must have a new window installed. In the same way, our sin has ruined any chance for us to be good enough. Our heart has been defiled. We need a new heart, and that comes from Christ. We are not saved BY good works, however, because we are saved, we DO good works.

Please be clear in your own mind and as you encourage others in the element of holiness. We are urged to give ourselves to the Lord in response to His love toward us. We serve Him BECAUSE of our salvation and not as a MEANS to our salvation.

Second, we serve the Lord because it is the appropriate response to a loving God. The word for "spiritual" or "reasonable" is the word, "logikos" or logical. Serving God with our lives is a logical response to the great news of the gospel. In coming to Christ we have learned several things,

  • God is good . . . He punishes sin (in Christ)
  • God is loving . . . He sent Christ on our behalf
  • God knows what He is doing
  • God is seeking what is best for us
  • God is able to accomplish what He sets out to do

With these truths in mind, what is the most logical thing you could do? You would want to do everything this God told you to do . . . . even if you didn't understand all of it.

Paul tells us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. This implies several things,

  • Our service is to be total not partial. If we give our bodies we are giving ourselves completely. Some who give their bodies to the Lord end up dying a martyrs death. But even that kind of sacrifice is a logical response to the greatness of the gospel.
  • Our service should be personal not general. It is easy to write a check. It is easy to serve in a group. What God wants from us is a service that is personal, individual, and total. He wants us to serve Him in our daily lives not just in our organizations. He wants a service that is just as devoted in the shadows as it is in the spotlight. He wants us to be just as committed to Him when no one is looking as we are when the crowds are applauding.
  • Our service is to be practical not theoretical. We serve the Lord often by the way we serve each other. The service God wants is not just something we talk about . . . it is something we do. It is manifest in our worship and in our day to day encounters with others. When we show love to others, even when it is difficult, we are responding appropriately to the God who saved us. When we work to alleviate the suffering and pain of those around us we are responding logically to the gospel. When we look for opportunities to build bridges of grace to the people of the world, we are engaging in a spiritual act of worship.

Please understand, that according to Paul, being spiritual in worship has little to do with the songs we sing or the experience we have. Spiritual worship is the attitude of the heart that we have before the Lord. It is a willingness to give ourselves to Him not just during the formal time of worship, but every moment of every day. A good example is the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6. Isaiah has a great vision of God and a wonderful experience of cleansing. Then the Lord asks, "Who shall I send? Who will go for us?" And Isaiah's response is "Here am I, send me." (Isaiah 6:8) True worship is not evidenced so much in our experience but in our response.

WE MUST ADOPT A NEW WAY OF THINKING to over INSANITY! In order to truly serve the Lord we must begin by adjusting our thinking.

The Apostle John writes,

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

John is not telling us that we must hate life or creation. We must however resist the system and the values of the world. The world's philosophy is pretty simple,

  • If you want something, go get it (that goes for partners, possessions, and power)
  • People are important primarily because of what they can do for you. If they can't do anything for you, don't waste your time on them.
  • Public opinion defines truth . . . popularity is more important than holiness
  • Faith and everyday living are unrelated
  • Live for the moment and don't concern yourself with consequences. (We'll see lots of evidence of this on New Year's Eve)
  • You are the center of your universe, don't let anyone push your around!

This is the mentality of the world around us. It explains why God's law is ignored. It explains why there is deception, corruption, and disregard for human life. These things are all seen as merely a means to an end. We must be aware of and resist this worldly mentality. The "world" works hard to get us to submit to its values.

We Must Think God's Thoughts. We must have the MIND OF CHRIST!

Paul tells us that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. In other words, in order to serve God appropriately we must learn to think differently. But how do we do this?

First, we must saturate ourselves in Godly thinking. We do this by reading God's Word. But it is really more than just reading. It is a matter of absorbing and interacting with God's Word. When we read the Bible we must constantly be asking ourselves, "What does this mean for my daily living."

But saturating ourselves in godly thinking also means exposing ourselves to godly writers, teachers, and influences. We need to meet regularly with friends who share our commitment to Christ. We must work to expand our thinking so that we are not just one-dimensional believers.

Second, we must learn to submit our decisions and our calendars to the Lord. In other words, instead of always doing what we feel like doing, we need to ask the Lord if what we feel like doing is right and good. This demands a kind of prayer that is often lost. We spend a good deal of our time asking God to take away the burdens of other people. We must also spend time talking with God about the everyday decisions of our lives. We must learn to submit our thoughts and decisions to the Lord. We need to ask if God will be honored or dishonored by what we plan to do. Will our actions build bridges or destroy them. Will it enhance our testimony or weaken it?

Paul tells us that in doing these things "you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." Very simply Paul is telling us that the only way to discover how superior God's will is for living is to do what he tells us to do. There is no shortcut. You have to dare to obey and then watch what happens.

When we obey the Lord we find that His way is perfect. We find that His values bring satisfaction and joy. We find that His methods bring real and lasting change in us and in those around us. When we trust Him rather than the gimmicks and devices of the world, we find that He is superior to everything else.

A doctor may tell you that if you exercise regularly your aches will go away. But you won't know if he is telling you the truth until you do what he says. Many of us will exercise for a day or two and find that we are sore. We conclude that the Doctor was wrong. But he isn't. He told that "regular exercise" will make us feel better. We must develop the habit of exercise before we can experience the benefit.

A Doctor may give us a prescription for our problems but we will not experience the benefit of the prescription if we don't take the medicine and take it consistently. If you are on antibiotics and only take them until you feel a little better you are opening yourself up to a return of the problem with a greater force because all you have done is made the bacteria resistant to the antibiotic. You must take all the medicine to completely eliminate the bacteria..

The same is true in our spiritual life. Some people read the Bible and pray for a few days (often at the beginning of a new year) and conclude, "nothing happened". Some worship for a few weeks and declare, "it didn't work". Some people venture into areas of service and conclude "I was unsuccessful". Some "get religion" until their guilt goes away or a crisis passes and then they forget God. But you become renewed in your thinking from habitual exposure to the Word of God, not just sporadic exposure. We will become transformed in our thinking and living as we begin to regularly test God's Word in our daily living. We must put it into practice regularly before we will see the superiority of God's way to the way of the world. If you want to test God's will and see that it is good and pleasing and perfect, you must dare to trust God and to keep trusting Him.

2008 is the year of SANITY…we are going to change, so that we can CHANGE. Not just change for the sake of changing, but changing into the image of Christ through constant, daily, habitual exposure and obedience to God's Word! Blessings!

Todays Bible reading: Genesis 6:1-8:22

Pastor Rusty