Religion does not turn a lot of people on. Doesn't this seem strange? Even though many accept that there is a God of creation, they are not convinced that there is a hell; that people who do not make a commitment to Jesus Christ are destined to suffer some punishment as the worst of sinners; that God expects and demands loyalty; that good works accompany true faith.
Most people in this country take the pursuit of happiness very seriously. It is an inalienable right. Most of us spend a lifetime pursuing happiness. Unfortunately, many people fail in their quest because they do not know and understand God. They have never left Egypt.
Apathy monopolizes Christians as well as the non-Christian dimensions of our society. Why is it so difficult to interest people in spiritual matters? First, they are caught up in a condemned association. Many people have experienced painful failures trying to find fulfillment and security in material possessions and physical pleasures. Spiritual concepts and words do not easily capture the attention of these souls. They have never experienced the joy of really knowing God. They are still in Egypt.
One of the primary reasons given by the disillusioned and "turned off to religion" folks is that people who claim to be spirit-filled, born again, Bible-believing people, are just as unfulfilled as they are, and they are right.
Many folks are bound by guilt and going to church is just a walk through the performance, they never experience the new joyful relationship God intended for His children. The root of apathy among Christians stems from their initial relationship with God. Did this relationship come about by some spiritual evolution? Did it come from being born a Christian? Or did it come from conviction of sin, confession of sin, and a full commitment to God?
The Bible from Genesis to Revelation teaches a substitutional and vicarious atonement for the sin of man. This is the only sane, logical, and scriptural doctrine of all those that are taught to man to help him in his fallen state. The atonement of Jesus Christ should be understood as both legal and practical. The reason and necessity for the atonement are evident when we know the love of God, His relationship to the human race, the fall of man, and his need for redemption. The atonement is a necessity because of these truths. We should understand the atonement as being not only necessary if a man is to be restored to original fellowship with the Creator, but that it was not an afterthought on the part of God because man fell. It is the most wonderful pre-planned, necessary, just, authoritative, and legal work of God in all history. The entire subject is a judicial one, and all the terms used in Scripture to express it are legalistic, such as an advocate, an intercessor, a mediator, a judge, a judgment, condemnation, pardon, justification, redemption, adoption, intercession, restitution, conciliation, law, sin, penalty, justice, and etc.
In the fall of man, Satan appears as more than a kidnapper or slave-master holding his slaves for ransom or redemption, but he has assumed pseudo-sovereignty over a man on the principle of the consent of a responsible agent. He governs men only by the consent of man. His government is only by consent of the governed. This kind of government is the only kind that God Himself recognizes or could reasonably establish with laws of rewards and penalties. This is the only kind that could possibly be carried on with a free moral agent. Satan became the usurper of man's dominion and assumed the position of "Prince of this world" and "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, Jn. 12:31; 1Jn. 3:8-9; Matt 13:38 The natural fallen man is bound to sin, and Satan by consent of the will is clear from the fact that when a man becomes old enough to be accountable for their personal acts they can continue in sin or freely choose to renounce sin and Satan and turn to God. Jn 3:15; Rom 6:16-23; 2Cor 4:2-6. They are willing subjects of sin and Satan and are free to become subjects of God and can willfully abandon the devil at any time. But they do not because these individuals have never been freed from the power of Egypt and Pharaoh.
If men could once and for all learn that they can of their own consent be made free from sin, and the works of the devil, that they can by their own consent refuse to be subjects of Satan and his governed; that they can turn from sin and become righteous through Christ; that they can reject and refuse defeat in their lives in any endeavor, they would reject all demon powers and doctrines; they would accept God and the truth and be made free and kept free by the power of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
All sinners can be transformed by faith in the atonement. The divine life with all its love, nature, and ideals give them victory over, and freedom from the old sinful traits that are contrary to the will of God. This is not salvation by self-effort or personal works, birth, or education. It is a new divine life imparted by the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning work. It is a spiritual life imparted to the inner man by the Spirit. Mere natural cultured virtues are never Christian graces and powers, for that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit. Jn 3:1-8; Rom 8:1-16; Gal 5:16-26. No human development, education, or human effort will ever transform human life from life after the flesh to live after the Spirit. Conversion is never evolutionary but the making of a new creature by the divine supernatural act.
If all Christians could come to see this simple and biblical truth, it would solve many problems and answer many questions concerning God's dealing with the saved and unsaved. It would settle many differences between those who accept Scriptural authority and those who fail to see its importance.
From Salvation, an individual knows the joys and fulfillment of life. The Christian's pursuit of happiness is finding and doing the will of God. The Christian is not caught up in being a prisoner of hope, with lost dreams, an unfulfilled life, defeated, depressed, and discouraged. But instead there is a victory in knowing that our sins have been forgiven, we have been washed in the redeeming sacrifice of Jesus Christ God's only son. We know in whom we have believed and are persuaded that he can keep that which we have committed unto Him against that day. We know and understand that God loves us and that He gave His only Son for our salvation.
2. You can go, you don't have to stay--just don't go too far. 8:28
Maintaining positive beliefs is essential to your effectiveness as a Christian. That's why it's crucial to hold on to these beliefs in the face of challenges. And make no mistake about: Your beliefs will be challenged. Yet while we are trying to interpret our Christian faith into the language of today, we need to remember that there is one thing worse than failure to practice what we profess, and that is to water down our professions to match our practice. This watering down comes only when we perceive that what God has asked us to live cannot be lived because we are looking only at our human abilities and not as what God has promised to do for us. We feel if we maintain certain respectability, then we are doing our best. We know that we can leave Egypt, but we can also stay. It is our choice.
If we are to take our rightful place in God's more excellent work, then we must realize that there is more required of us than just respectability. The foundation of Christianity is laid deeper than just maintaining an absolute minimum morality. The old law of "thou shalt not" is superseded by the command of Jesus to "be ye perfect."
No one who endeavors to live this life in sincerity, integrity, and purity will find it easy. But you will find it morally stable. Your personal loyalty to Christ will always be stronger when you are anchored to Him. It is through this allegiance that power for life is received. This power for life enables us to make the right choices. The ordinary individual does not understand the meaning of moral stability. The average individual is far more likely to think of greatness and power, and the ability to control the lives of others more important than the power of a stable moral life.
These individuals are discontent with life because they see no chance to realize this dream of power and wealth. On a global scale when these individuals are seeking wealth and power, what do they get? They get war, followed by economic failure. I would think that a quick review of history would explain this cycle. But on a personal scale, the same takes place there are small personality wars followed by failure of friendships. The belief of how things should be, and the belief of how things are, creates frustration in our lives
Whenever you believe what should be conflicts with what is, you're going to end up feeling frustrated. That's what frustration is a gap between expectation and reality.
When you are in line at the supermarket, in a hurry to get home, there always seems to be someone who must argue about coupons or some other silly thing, and you feel frustrated.
Any time you believe that things must be different for you to reach your goals, you are going to feel frustrated, trapped, disempowered. The truth is, all your "shoulds' probably are 100 percent correct. The reality is that many aspects of the church aren't the way they should be. No one can fault you for feeling frustrated. The question is what you are going to do about it. Remain frustrated and accept dissatisfaction? Or choose to be different? Are you going to make a choice to stay in Egypt or are you getting out?
The choices we make about the challenges we face shape our spiritual lives. You may stay with the shoulds and remain frustrated. Or you may look at things the way they really are and seek solutions that move you toward fulfillment of your spiritual growth. You can look at your spiritual life and see the hopelessness you are in and remain in the confines of Egypt and die. Or you can choose to pack your bags and get out. You must take responsibility for your spiritual life.
Think of responsibility as a response-ability. You can choose your response to the challenges. If you take a position that you should not have to deal with the issues hindering your spiritual growth, you become a victim. You choose to make yourself a victim. You end up frustrated, bitter, burned out. You give up. You decide to remain in Egypt. But if you choose to respond realistically to the challenges you can find a way to have victory over them and preserve your spiritual life and keep you focused on the mission of helping get other out of Egypt this is winning souls for Christ.
When you believe that the church is here to help meet the needs of this community, you will want to find ways to rise above the challenges. The hardest problem you will face is in recognizing that you do indeed have a choice. It is your choice. It is your challenge. It is your spiritual life that you must deal with.
If you choose to change the direction this church has been going in for several years of never resolving issues; you can revitalize your spiritual life as well as help our church become the spiritual center that it should be. You have made a conscious choice, which is a start in making a difference. Don't allow your life to be made up of shoulds. Don't have the regrets of having not ever left Egypt.
3. You can leave, but your families must stay. 10:10
There is nothing sadder than seeing a family divided in their spiritual life. Too many people have listened to Pharaoh and left their families behind. First, this is not scriptural. God did not plan to separate the family. In the Book of Acts, we find that when salvation came to an individual, it came to the entire family.
Satan knows that if he has the family back in Egypt, there will never be a strong commitment to God. The spirit and emotions are divided between God and family. It is all a matter of who you belong to. There are many people today who would say, "It is important to find out what belongs to you and make sure as you can that there's plenty of it." Wiser souls would say, "It is more important to find out what you belong to. What claims you, commands you, fulfills you and masters you."
One of the most devastating diseases is loneliness. It is basically a problem of belonging. There is a significant difference between being alone and lonely. An individual can be in a crowd and be lonely. It has to do with being unrelated. There is no meaningful connection with other people or with God. Here stands an individual who is as lonely as a graveyard.
Paul states, "Brothers you are called to belong to Jesus Christ..." Belonging to Jesus Christ is an aspect of relatedness, belonging to God's highest and the world's best---Jesus Christ. What does it mean to belong to Jesus Christ? In the sixth chapter of Romans Paul writes about our spiritual freedom in Jesus Christ. This is not a freedom to do as I please it is a freedom from the control of sin. "But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." I become a servant of God through Jesus Christ. "But now being made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruits unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." No individual is without a master. "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servant ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death or of obedience unto righteousness."
The question is who my master is? If it is not Jesus, then it is Satan. Satan enslaves us to the bondage of sin while Christ emancipates us. "Who the Son sets free is free indeed." I have noticed that the farther a man get from Christ, the less of a man he becomes. Sin entangles us. It is a powerful entity that does not stop until we are dead physically. Yet, the closer a man gets to Christ the more of a man he becomes. His convictions are based on the fundamental principles of God's Word. His character is molded in fashion after Jesus Christ. His life is dedicated to completing the will of God. There is a spiritual oneness and not a self-awareness-- he becomes a whole man.
The life of Jesus exemplifies mastery and liberty. He was the Master of the storm. When flattered that the people want him to become king, he remained humble. When his popularity was high and his followers many, he did not forget his purpose in coming, he continued loyal to his Father. When his life could have been filled with bitterness, he extended forgiveness.
The life of Jesus shows Him as the Master of circumstances. He did not despise material values and physical comforts; he did not allow them to become his master. Regardless of the circumstances whether it was paying taxes, fishing all night, feeding the multitude, healing the sick, raising the dead, or finding a place to sleep, Jesus was the Master of the circumstance. Most men will struggle to make themselves independent with wealth. Jesus Christ made himself independent of wealth.
Was the life of Christ without challenge and difficulty? Listen as he says, " Father if it is possible to let this cup pass..." This took courage and confidence to face "...nevertheless not my will, but thine be done." He says to us in the world you will have tribulation be of good cheer I have overcome the world. James Stewart, the Scottish preacher, said: "Why do you linger amid the shadows of the prison-house when Christ has opened wide the door?"
To belong to Jesus Christ, we must be more than believers in the forgiveness of sin we must accept it as a gift from God. When I receive the gift, I become part of a community in whose membership we find true fellowship. We now are in the company of saints. Saints are not people who have been dead for a long time, they are not old and feeble, quiet and unbothersome people. Saints are people who belong to God.
We must be part of a community bound together in a fellowship that allows for our: spiritual gifts to develop, for spiritual growth, for spiritual fulfilling, for a sense of accomplishment. Being apart from people is, but the achievement needed to remain whole.
All too often though, we want to start where we should be ending. The Wright Brother's did not begin at Kitty Hawk. They started by studying seagulls. Einstein didn't start with the theory of relativity. He started with multiplication tables. Henry Ford didn't start with the Model T. He began by repairing bicycles. And Wendell Phillips. . . Who is Wendell Phillips? He was called the Prophet of Liberty. Twenty-five years before the Emancipation Proclamation this Boston aristocrat broke with tradition and friends to oppose slavery. He became known as the golden trumpet. Did he start when challenged by a speech of Lincoln? No. He began by speaking up for one Boston mulatto who was about to be hanged for saying, Slavery was an insult to God and human dignity." In 1884 Phillips died not hated but honored.
Why such a change? Phillips heard Lyman Beecher preach on the Lordship of Christ. He was so moved that he went home and prayed. O God, I belong to Thee; take what Thine own is, I ask this that whatever a thing be wrong it may have no power or temptation over me. Whenever an item is right, it may take no courage to do it. O God I belong to thee.
We are not called to be happy. We are called to belong---happiness follows. We are not called to service. We are called to belong---service will follow. We are not called to be. We are called to belong--- following. Belonging to Christ, we belong to His people. We belong to the family. We can open our hearts, let our hair down, share our problems, feed our faith, and encourage one another. We now belong to a cause whose mission gives fulfillment in life.
Young people, our tempted to be excited, energetic, enthusiastic about fads, superficial interest, and small loyalties. I challenge you today to be passionate, energetic, and earnest in the most significant cause in the universe and show your willingness to start by belonging to Jesus Christ. Do you belong if not you can? Keep your family together.
Dad, have you let your wife walk a lonely road because you would rather stay in Egypt where is take no courage to live. Are you afraid to head towards the Wilderness where you will find a new life, an exciting journey, and challenges? Are you content to take your family to church while you stay at home? Keep your family together.