Saturday, November 10, 2012

Setting Our Minds on Christ – Ensuring Our Peace

What does following Christ mean to you? Who were you when you came to Christ? Who are you today? These are all questions we face when we evaluate our relationship with Jesus. I hope the answer to the first question is the same for each of us. But, following Christ means everything to me. Before Christ came into my life, I was self-centered, willful, filled with hate and prejudice. I wanted my own way and did not care what I had to do to achieve my desire.

Today I can honestly say, “I am not the person I was.” My motivation has changed. My desires are different. Christ is the Lord of my life and anything I accomplish is because He is at work within me. I believe every Christian can agree, we are not the people we were, and yet we are not completely transformed into the people He is calling us to become.

Many of us have been distracted by this world and chased after comfort and possessions instead of the blessings of God. Chasing possessions and climbing the world’s ladder of success does not ensure our peace nor does it secure God’s favor upon our lives. It is time to hit the reset button on our faith. When programming goes wrong in our technological devices we all know to hit the reset button. We need to do the same thing when our spiritual compass gets misdirected.

The title of this message is “Setting Our Minds on Christ – Ensuring Our Peace”.

Colossians 3:1-3 “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.” (NLT)

Many of the things going on around us could easily distract us from our commitment to Christ if we do not remind ourselves that our TRUE lives are already hidden with Him. This world holds no promise for us and anything it can offer pales when compared to our reward in Heaven.

God will protect the righteous here in this life, and receive the righteous in the life to come. The question is: Are we righteous? What does God count as righteousness?

Isaiah 26:1-4 “In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; [the Lord] sets up salvation as walls and bulwarks. Open the gates, that the [uncompromisingly] righteous nation which keeps her faith and her troth [with God] may enter in. You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You. So trust in the Lord (commit yourself to Him, lean on Him, hope confidently in Him) forever; for the Lord God is an everlasting Rock [the Rock of Ages].” (AMP)

God counts FAITH in Him as righteousness. Believing what He has spoken, living by His ordinances, keeping our minds focused upon Him in spite of the direction this world is going, that is what the Lord recognizes as righteousness.

Proverbs 15:28-33 “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. The Lord is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous. Bright eyes gladden the heart; Good news puts fat on the bones. He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof Will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.” (NASB)

Satan through the influence of the world throws temptation after temptation our way. Questions fly at us from every direction as to why we believe in God and choose to serve Christ. The wisdom of Scripture tells us not to rush into an answer for them. By pondering the question and following the lead of the Holy Spirit we can always find the answer within the Bible.

2 Corinthians 6:1-10 “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (NIV)

No matter what comes our way He has promised to deliver us. Simply share the TRUTH in love, live as examples of God’s grace, and teach those who will listen. The world and those attracted to its treasures may never understand. They will not recognize what is right in front of them, but we must present the TRUTH. As we pray God will answer. As we plant the seed God will bring up the harvest. As we walk worthy of the calling God has given to each of us we will see His glory.

1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 “For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.” (KJV)

We used to say in the church, “You can be so Heavenly minded that you’re no Earthly good.” As I see more and more clearly the signs of the times, I wonder why we are still trying to fit into the world’s pattern of success.

Philippians 3:7-9 “I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.” (NLT)

Lord, set our minds on You and help us live our lives in such a way that Your grace can be seen by all. Prepare us for the work of the harvest and ensure that none of us falls short of Your grace. Uproot the bitterness in our lives and allow us to share the TRUTH of salvation with others. You Lord are our only hope, in Christ’s name we ask these things. Amen!

Hebrews 12:14-15 “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;” (NASB)

There is a Highway Option

There is a popular saying that has been around for years. How many have ever been told, “It’s my way or the highway” and, almost as quickly as that statement is out there, it is recanted by “Oh, wait, there is no highway option”. Tonight I want to remind the church, there is a highway option.

We can take a look around the world and say, “We don’t like where this thing is headed” but, the truth is the world is headed just where God has ordained from the beginning that it should go. He did not consult with me for my opinion on the matter. He in His power and authority has allowed everything throughout history to lead us to this point.  The question is where is the church going? The world is going its own way, but where is the church going?

For too long now, the church has followed along in lock step with the philosophies, actions and attitudes of the world. When the direction we should choose is 180 degrees the other way.

1 John 2:15-16 “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.” (NLT)

I hope no one is in a hurry this evening because as God unfolded this message before me, I quickly realized it was too much for a one hour study. In my estimation we many begin to have a good grasp of the concepts after about thirteen weeks.  Tonight I will attempt to give you just the overview and get us all home at a reasonable hour, but I’m not making any promises.

As I said a moment ago, this world is traveling the course God has mapped out for it. What we are seeing around the world, the failure of economic systems, increased storms, vast amounts of people blindly following anyone promising to fulfill their desire, it’s all in the Bible. God said it’s all going to happen. Regardless of how you voted or who is in the white house, what we are seeing around us are all signs of the times.

2 Corinthians 4:4-6 “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (NIV)

There is a highway option – It’s mapped out in the Bible!
      66 books
      Old Testament
      New Testament
      40 Different authors
      At least 3 different languages
      1600 years in its construction
      One Holy Spirit

We will be taking a look at the highway God is offering to us. On this highway we will come face to face with responsibilities. We will be warned about the wrath to come. We will be comforted by God’s promises and we will recognize the benefits of traveling the highway of holiness.

Isaiah 35:3-10 “Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah. The scorched land will become a pool And the thirsty ground springs of water; In the haunt of jackals, its resting place, Grass becomes reeds and rushes. A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it. No lion will be there, Nor will any vicious beast go up on it; These will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there, And the ransomed of the Lord will return And come with joyful shouting to Zion, With everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (NASB)

Truths for Travelers – There are two responsibilities, one warning, two promises, the identification of the highway and its travelers mentioned in this passage from Isaiah. The way I see it, they break down as follows:

      Encourage the exhausted – One of the responsibilities given to believers traveling the highway. How many feel exhausted and discouraged tonight? Begin to be built up by the promises in the Word. Look at your neighbor and tell them, “There is a warning. We do have some responsibilities, but the promises and the benefits make it worth the trip.”

      Strengthen the feeble – The other responsibility of traveling this highway, the word feeble can mean weak either in mind or body, but our responsibility is to help, strengthen, teach encourage and train those less fortunate, blessed or able bodied than we ourselves.
      The recompense of God will come – Here is the warning. Judgment is coming to anyone not traveling the Highway of Holiness. The church should not accept, practice, or promote the standards of this world. We should uphold the standard of holiness and purity of heart outlined in Scripture.

      He will save you – The first of two promises from this passage gives confidence to those who have chosen the highway option. If you hold on to the truth of Scripture, accept the gift of salvation offered through Christ and live a life honoring toward God, He will save you.

      The highway will be there – This second promise from Isaiah 35:3-10 states,  the highway will be there. We can count on this roadway being safe and getting us to our intended destination.

      It will be called the Highway of Holiness – The identification of this highway as the Highway of Holiness should serve to remind us of the many benefits available to travelers on this highway. It also explains who is and is not allowed to travel upon this roadway.

      The redeemed will walk there – Only the redeemed will travel this highway. We will travel in health, safety, and security. Joy and gladness will be our traveling companions. Sorrow and mourning will be things of the past.

How do we successfully make the trip?

Repent – Begin the journey with a U-Turn.
Proverbs 15:19 “The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, But the path of the upright is a highway.” (NASB)

Proverbs 16:17 “The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; He who watches his way preserves his life.” (NASB)

Renew – Choose the Right Traveling Companion
Psalm 51:12-13 “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then will I teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted and return to You.” (NIV)

Ephesians 4:23-24 “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” (NLT)

Reestablish – Follow the Rules of the Road
Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (NASB)

Ephesians 4:17-19 “With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 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. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.” (NLT)

Rejoice – The Right Compass Leads Us Home
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (NASB)

Ephesians 4:30-32 “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. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT)

How to successfully make the trip!

      Repent – Begin the journey with a U-Turn. God always deals with individuals first. Each one of us knows our own sins, faults and shortcomings. Before a nation can turn around we have to turn around. When we have repented, we can set our homes in order. If our homes are in order, we can turn our communities around. When our communities are turned around, the nation will follow suit. Repentance requires the church to offer a clear relevant option opposite the way of the world. If we tell people they are okay the way they are there is no need for the redemptive power of Christ or the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.  

      Renew – Choose the right traveling companion. The Holy Spirit is a gift from God. By the Spirit we understand Scripture and are led into “All Truth” which means the correct interpretation of God’s Word. When we have been filled with the Spirit, we have the ability to understand and teach Godly principles as well as a holy and righteous lifestyle.

      Reestablish – Follow the rules of the road. God must be reestablished as Lord of our lives. The Bible teaches us to remove everything that gets in the way of serving Him completely. Anything we trust to deliver us other than God has become an idol.

      Rejoice – The right compass leads us home. The Highway of Holiness is filled with blessings and reasons to celebrate. Make the right choice. There is a highway option.