DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

Unmasking the Cults - An Introduction

(1 Peter 3:15) Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

1. Definition of a Cult

1.1 "A cult of Christianity is a group of people, which claiming to be Christian, embraces a particular doctrinal system taught by an individual leader, group of leaders, or organization, which (system) denies (either explicitly or implicitly) one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith as taught in the sixty-six books of the Bible."(1)
1.2 Some observations:
1.2.1 The word "cult" is sometimes used to refer to any religious group. In fact, there are also cults of other religious systems (e.g., Nation of Islam).
1.2.2 All Christian denominations agree on the essential core of the Christian faith. The central core should not be confused with peripheral issues about which Christians can legitimately disagree. Core doctrines have been held throughout the ages and can be summarized by historic creeds such as the Apostle's Creed (third or fourth century A.D.):

I believe in God the Father Almighty; Maker of heaven and earth.

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; the third day he rose from the dead; he ascended into heaven; and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy catholic Church; the communion of the saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

1.2.3 This definition assumes that it is not to have a sincere belief. Some people say, "We all worship the same God," or, "It doesn't matter what religion you belong to, as long as you do good." This runs counter to the claims of Christ and historic Christianity.
1.3 Other terms
1.3.1 "Occult" - different from cults. Usually refers to spiritism, fortune-telling, and magic.
1.3.2 "Heresy" - "A teaching which directly opposes the essentials of the Christian faith, so that true Christians must divide themselves from those who hold it"(2) A heresy is a major deviance from Christian teaching.

2. Common Characteristics of Cults

2.1 Theological
2.1.1 Denial of the Trinity - Probably all cults deny the doctrine of the Trinity. Some deny the doctrine outright, and others redefine it so the doctrine is not orthodox (e.g., teaching three gods instead of one God who exists in three persons).
2.1.2 Denial of salvation by grace through faith - "Every cult ultimately teaches that we must save ourselves."(3) Many place limits on his saving work, and say that Christ was unable to complete his mission, and that we must add our works.
2.1.3 Denial of the bodily resurrection - The bodily resurrection is central to the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15). Many cults spiritualize the resurrection.
2.1.4 Reduction of the absolute authority of Scripture - Some cults accuse the Bible of containing errors, or undermine it by calling it "old light" and adding the cult's own teaching ("new light"). Some produce their own translations, which change certain doctrines, or introduce new books with greater authority.
2.1.5 Redefinition of Biblical terminology - Often the cultist will seem to agree with everything a Christian is saying. They are using Christian vocabulary, but redefining the terms (such as Jesus, the gospel, salvation, heaven).
2.1.6 Exclusive belief system - Cults often claim to have the sole corner on truth.
2.1.7 Other characteristics include an emphasis on direct revelations from God (particularly in the experience of the leaders), a fixation with end times, and an overemphasis on isolated Scriptures.

2.2 Practices of Cults

2.2.1 Authoritarianism - There is usually a dominant leader, and chains of command. In some cults, permission must be granted for many life decisions.
2.2.2 Stripping of past associations - Some cults require that the person renounce past associations, especially family members.
2.2.3 Unusual degree of commitment and zeal - Not a bad thing in itself. Many cults require great sacrifice and commitment.
2.2.4 Antagonism toward orthodox Christian denominations - "Cults sometimes expend considerable energy denouncing other religious groups - particularly Christian churches."(4)
2.2.5 Love bombing - "Group members give prospects an overwhelming sense of acceptance, belonging, and significance by 'bombing' them with flattery, touching, and hugging."(5)
2.2.6 Other characteristics may include a communal lifestyle, familial imagery, distorted sexual teachings and practices, opposition toward autonomous thinking, a change of diet, and conformity of dress.

3. Why Do People Join Cults?

3.1 Love - "People affiliate with groups because they want affection; they want friends and loved ones to care for them."(6)
3.2 Family - "One reason that young people join cults is to find a family."(7)
3.3 Acceptance and self-worth - A sense of belonging and purpose.
3.4 Idealism and spiritual hunger - Part of an enthusiastic group that offers spiritual fulfillment.
3.5 Answers to intellectual questions - They have answers to questions people ask.
3.6 Wholesome lifestyle - A way to experience purity.
3.7 High degree of commitment required - This is attractive to many people.

4. Becoming Cult-proof

4.1 Know what you believe and why - Become grounded in basic Christian doctrine. "It is a sad fact that a ninety-day [i.e., newly trained] wonder from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society can turn the average Christian into a doctrinal pretzel in fifteen minutes."(8)
4.2 Meet people's social and emotional needs - Cults meet needs many churches don't. Churches should be places of love and acceptance. "Cults are the unpaid bills of the church."(9)
4.3 Meet spiritual needs - Many cults rightfully claim to be more "sold out" than those in the church. Many Christians could afford to be more zealous and committed. "A healthy church is the best weapon against losing people to cults."(10)

5. Checklist of Cult Characteristics

  • The group is focused on a living leader to whom members seem to display excessively zealous, unquestioning commitment.
  • The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.
  • The group is preoccupied with making money.
  • Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
  • Mind-numbing techniques (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, debilitating work routines) are used to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).
  • The leadership dictates sometimes in great detail how members should think, act, and feel (for example: members must get permission from leaders to date, change jobs, get married; leaders may prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, how to discipline children, and so forth).
  • The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s), and members (for example: the leader is considered the Messiah or an avatar; the group and/or the leader has a special mission to save humanity).
  • The group has a polarized us- versus-them mentality, which causes conflict with the wider society.
  • The group's leader is not accountable to any authorities (as are, for example, military commanders and ministers, priests, monks, and rabbis of mainstream denominations).
  • The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify means that members would have considered unethical before joining the group (for example: collecting money for bogus charities).
  • The leadership induces guilt feelings in members in order to control them.
  • Members' subservience to the group causes them to cut ties with family and friends, and to give up personal goals and activities that were of interest before joining the group.
  • Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group.
  • Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
Endnotes

(1) Alan W. Gomes, Unmasking the Cults (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 7.
(2) Gomes 17.
(3) Gomes 26.
(4) Ronald Enroth, "Churches on the Fringe" in Contend for the Faith, 196.
(5) Citizens Freedom Foundation, The Cult Crisis
(6) Richardson, "Conversion, Brainwashing, and Deprogramming," 37.
(7) Doress and Porter, "Kids in Cults," 297.
(8) Walter Martin, quoted by Gomes, 87.
(9)Dr. Martin Van Baalen, quoted in Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1965), 14
(10) Gomes,90.

Follow At All Costs

  • today is day 50 of our 50-Day spiritual adventure
  • we've been challenged to follow in Christ's steps and ask in everything "What would Jesus do?"
  • we've been asked to represent Christ's interest in our community
  • but as we come to the end of our 50-Day Adventure, I realize that there are many who will not make the decision to follow in Christ's steps
  • and it's you I want to address this morning
  • almost nothing I say this morning is going to be original
  • this summer at a leadership conference, John Maxwell shared a message "The courage to lead at all costs"
  • and what I'm going to do this morning is to preach it to you, challenging you to follow Christ at all costs
  • this morning I want to read to you from Matthew 5
  • but I don't want you to open your Bibles, because I'll be reading to you from Eugene Peterson's translation The Message
    • When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside, Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him.
  • I want to make sure you got that statement, so I'm going to read it again
    • When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside, Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him.
  • not everybody went with him
  • in fact, he left many, many people behind on this day
  • only those who were committed to him climbed with him
    • Arriving at a quite place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions.
  • I have determined in my life that I want to be a climbing companion of Jesus
  • I've determined that I never want to stay in the lowlands
  • I want to pay the price, no matter what the price, to follow wherever God leads me
  • what's interesting is that he preaches this incredible message we're about to hear
  • and the only ones who ever heard his message were the committed, climbing companions
  • here's the message:
    • "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
    • "You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
    • "You're blessed when you're content with just who you are - no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
    • "You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
    • "You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being "care-full," you find yourselves cared for.
    • "You're blessed when you get your inside world - your mind and your heart - put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
    • "You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
    • "You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
  • when I read the Bible, I find it to be full of paradoxes
  • Jesus said that if I want to save my life, I have to lose my life
  • if I want to be lifted up, I have to humble myself; and if I want to be the greatest, I have to be a servant; and if I want to be first, I have to be last
  • if I want to rule, I have to serve; and if I want to live, I have to put to death the deeds of the body; and if I want to be strong, I've got to become weak
  • and if I want to inherit the kingdom, I have to be poor in spirit
  • and if I want to produce, I have to die
  • in fact, Jesus said:
  • (John 12:24) I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
  • (John 12:25) The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
  • so if you'll let me, I'd like to talk to you about death
  • I'd like to talk to you about the topic "I Don't Have to Survive"
  • I'd like to talk to you about becoming that grain of wheat, and literally letting God take you through a process of death so you can have a resurrection
  • I'd like to talk to you about brokenness in a God-way
  • you see, there's a difference between being broken and being beaten
  • when God breaks me, I can honestly say in the brokenness that I care
  • when I'm beaten, I basically will say "I don't care"
  • when I'm broken, I will say, "I cannot, but God can"
  • when I'm beaten, I'll just say, "I can't"
  • when God breaks me, in that brokenness, I say, "In my weakness I can glorify God," but if I'm beaten, I glorify no one
  • you see, what I want us to take out today is that God wants to break us in the right places
  • we want to be broken because we've submitted and let God take us through a process of brokenness and death
  • if I break myself, then I'm broken in the wrong places
  • if I allow God to break me, then I'm broken in all the right places
  • now the message I'm giving you today isn't a popular message, I know that
  • it's not a happy message
  • but I tell you, I've never seen anyone do anything great for God that hasn't had to go through the process that I'm describing
  • you see, in our journey, Good Friday always comes before Easter
  • and our problem is that we love resurrection and life and victorious living
  • and it's wonderful to come to a point in one's life when you have a wonderful, peaceful life, and spiritual growth and growth in the church and everything else
  • but I want to tell you something
  • we have to die first before we can have the resurrection
  • we have to come to a place like the Apostle Paul
  • (Acts 20:22) "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.
  • (Acts 20:23) I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.
  • (Acts 20:24) However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.
  • when you read this passage, you realize the secret to the Apostle Paul's ministry is that he didn't have to survive
  • I mean, what are you going to do with Paul?
  • "Paul, we do not like the way you're preaching. If you don't stop preaching that way, we're going to throw rocks at you."
  • "That's been done before"
  • "Oh, shut up Paul. Quit planting churches. We're going to put you in jail"
  • "Could I go back to the jail at Rome? I was witnessing to the guard the last time when they let me out."
  • "Paul, if you don't shut up, we're going to kill you!"
  • "Would you please? I'm in this dilemma, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, could you just knock me off"
  • what are you going to do with Paul? Nothing! Why?
  • Paul doesn't have to survive
  • you can't kill a dead man
  • on the back of the door in my office, you'll find a plaque with these words: "I Don't Have to Survive"
  • it is a reminder to me that I don't have to make palatable decisions, I have to make right decisions
  • and what God holds us accountable for is to do right, to live right, to be right
  • it's not an issue manipulation or even motivation and persuasion, it's getting our lives to a place when we're dead to ourselves and God can begin to do his work
  • when we get to a broken, I don't have to survive place in our life
  • it's a process we have to go through
  • and my prayer is that God would unleash in this church people who can go out and live their lives not having to survive any more
  • to follow Christ at all costs
  • let's think of some Biblical people who had to survive
  • Abraham and Sarah, when they went to Egypt and he lied
  • Lot when he divided the flock up with Abraham
  • Jacob before he wrestled with the angel
  • ten out of the twelve spies coming from Canaan
  • these are survivors
  • Solomon, who had to make so many alliances with nations instead of with God
  • the rich young ruler, who had so much, and left with such a loss
  • the man who buried his one talent was a survivor
  • Peter, who had to deny that he knew the Lord
  • and Caiaphas, the high priest
  • and it just goes on and on
  • and when you look at these people who had to survive, it's obvious that they paid a horrible price for having to be a survivor
  • I mean, just go ask Lot about Sodom
  • ask the ten spies as the children of Israel do figure eights in the desert for forty years
  • walk into Solomon's life and ask him about the emptiness of a survival mode
  • the rich young ruler who had so much to give, and went away sadly
  • the one-talent man would talk to us about the Master's wrath
  • or Peter, who just looked at Jesus' face after his survival course
  • but the Bible's full of non-survivors as well
  • listen to this
  • Abraham taking Isaac up to be sacrificed, saying "God will provide"
  • Joshua looking at the children of Israel and saying, "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
  • Caleb, at 85 years of age, saying, "Give me that mountain"
  • Job saying, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him"
  • David looking at Goliath and saying, "Is there not a cause worth fighting for?"
  • Elijah on top of Mount Carmel
  • Daniel in the lion's den
  • the three Hebrew children
  • oh, the Bible's full of non-survivors!
  • I love the three Hebrew children
  • they say, "Look, you probably didn't understand the instructions. What you've got to do is bow down"
  • and the children reply, "Oh, we understood."
  • (Daniel 3:17) If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.
  • (Daniel 3:18) But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."
  • John the Baptist, who said, "I must decrease, and he must increase"
  • the widow who gave her two mites, everything she had!
  • let me tell you just about a half-dozen things that keep us in a survival mode
  • that keeps us from being broken
  • the first thing that hinders brokenness in our life is just the fast pace of life
  • we just get busy
  • too busy to care, too busy to get involved in the lives of others, too busy to love
  • through the stress of life, we tend to become hardened and callused
  • the second reason is, we're fearful of becoming vulnerable
  • our lack of transparency and vulnerability
  • C.S. Lewis said,
    • To love at all is to vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wronged and possibly broken. If you want to be sure of keeping your heart intact, you must give your heart to no-one - not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements with others. Lock it up safely in the coffin or casket of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not become broken. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is hell
  • number 3 is immaturity
  • I think there are times in our life when we're immature and we don't want brokenness
  • when we are broken, we become childlike
  • we become vulnerable, we become trusting, we become dependent, forgiving, teachable
  • when we are unbroken, we become childish
  • and there's a thin line in the Christian community between being childlike and childish
  • and we want our rights, don't we
  • we have to learn that the process of growth in the Christian life is that we give up our rights
  • unlike the world, leadership is servanthood, and if we're going to be the leaders of the pack, the first thing we do is give up our rights
  • too many churches are like country clubs with crosses on the top
  • many times members join a church, and their first question is, "What's in it for me?"
  • Jesus told us we're to be fishers of men, not keepers of the aquarium
  • most people in our churches are already educated way beyond the level of their obedience
  • I heard a pastor talk about going in the church one day
  • and a man stopped the pastor
  • now this man that stopped the pastor was a huge giver in the church - he gave about 20% of the offerings
  • he said, "Pastor, I don't like what's happening here. I just want to tell you that I've decided to withhold my tithe until things turn back to the way they used to be"
  • the pastor said, "Well, don't tell me, tell God - it's his money. So let's just pray together. Here, get on your knees. Repeat after me, 'God, I've decided to rob you'"
  • he said, "Wait a minute!"
  • we're talking about the immaturity, the selfishness
  • if all the sleeping people would wake up, if all the lukewarm people in the church would fire up, if all the dishonest people in the church would confess up, and if all the disgruntled people in the church would sweeten up, if all the discouraged people in the church would cheer up and all the estranged people in the church would make up, and if all the gossiping people in the church would shut up, if all the dry bones in the church would shake up and if all the non-giving people in the church would pay up, we could have some church renewal
  • number 4: isolation from the world causes us not to be broken
  • we're never around unbelievers and so we don't care
  • if you want an interesting Bible study, in Matthew 9 when Jesus went to the villages and was healing and felt a wonderful compassion for them, there's a wonderful sequence there of having our heart broken for lost people
  • and it goes like this
    • Jesus went, Jesus saw, and Jesus felt
  • our problem is we want to feel, see, and then go
  • number 5 is misplaced priority
  • somebody wrote,

I counted dollars while God counted crosses,
and I counted gains while He counted losses,

I counted my worth, my things gained in store,
and he sized me up for the scars that I bore.
I counted my degrees, and he counted the hours I spent on my knees.
I never knew until one day by the grave,
how vain are the things that we spend life to save.

  • number 6 is satisfaction; our needs are met
  • we're like the church in Laodicea
  • we're not hot, we're not cold, we're just comfortable
  • there's a piece called "Disturb us, Lord"

Disturb us, Lord
When we're too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams come true only because we've dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely only because we've traveled too close to the shore,
When with the abundance of things we're losing our taste for God,
When in loving time we have ceased to dream of eternity,
And when in our desire to build on this earth we have lost our vision of a new heaven.

  • everyone of us needs to come to a point in our lives when we quit playing games with God
  • and we say, "Okay, God, I'm getting on the operating table, and I want you to work on me, and I'm not going to get off until you're done"
  • God wants to take a whole bunch of us and turn us into men and women of God
  • who go out with a heart for people
  • and we'll become people who don't have to survive
  • and who will follow at all costs
  • I want to ask God to raise up people who will go into our community and become fully devoted followers of Christ
  • let's determine to be men and women of God
  • let me close with some words from In His Steps
  • "If our definition of being a Christian is simply to enjoy the privileges of worship, be generous at no expense to ourselves, have a good easy time surrounded by pleasant friends and by comfortable things, live respectably and at the same time avoid the world's great stress of sin and trouble because it is too much pain to bear it - if this is our definition of Christianity, surely we are a long way from following the steps of Him who trod the way with groans and tears and sobs of anguish for a lost humanity; who sweat, as it were, great drops of blood, who cried out on the upreared cross, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'
  • "Are we ready to make and live a new discipleship? Are we ready to reconsider our definition of a Christian? What is it to be a Christian? It is to imitate Jesus. It is to do as He would do. It is to walk in His steps"
Adapted from a message by John Maxwell

Take a Stand

  • in their heart of hearts, I think all of us here want to declare openly that we identify with Christ
  • but if you're like me, the word "evangelism" strikes fear in your heart
  • somebody did a study a few years back, and found out the top five reasons people don't evangelize:
  • 1.Perceptions of TV preachers
  • 2.Too busy
  • 3.Fear of rejection
  • 4.Too difficult to share
  • 5.Too timid
  • (source: Christianity Today, Dec. 16, 1991)
  • the Bible talks about two men who were too timid to take a public stand for Christ
  • their names were Nicodemus and Joseph
  • John 3 tells us that Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews
  • he would also have been very well off and respected by people
  • we read that Nicodemus came at night
  • it was very possible that the reason Nicodemus came at night was that he was afraid to come during the day
  • and of course, evening hours then were much darker and more secretive than what we experience now with the benefit of electricity
  • it's also possible that he might have become a believer later
  • but he appears to have been a secret disciple of Christ
  • Joseph was the same, a member of the Sanhedrin
  • Luke writes that Joseph was good and righteous
  • but John 19 tells us that he was a secret disciple of Christ, because he feared the Jews
  • now probably in no culture has the pressure to conform been greater than among the Pharisees of Jesus' day
  • the Jewish compliance knob had been turned from hot to hottest
  • so for Nicodemus of Joseph to declare that they were seriously considering the teachings of Jesus was to insure being ostracized by the religious community, their friends, neighbors, and quite possibly their families
  • it seems apparent that they would also have felt negative pressure business-wise
  • so he kept the secret
  • they were undercover Christians
  • later, in John 7, the Pharisees ask some officers why they failed to carry out their orders to arrest Christ
  • the soldiers reply, "No one ever spoke the way this man does!"
  • the Pharisees respond angrily, "You mean he has deceived you also? Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? No!"
  • and Nicodemus, reluctant to let such a statement go by without some kind of protest, ventures, "Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?"
  • but his colleagues retort, "Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee."
  • such a rebuff is enough to keep Nicodemus silent
  • after all, who enjoys being embarrassed?
  • what Jew wants to be thought of as non-kosher?
  • no one likes being a misfit
  • with most of us, the thought of bucking the opinions of others elicits great fear
  • but something changed
  • we read that in Mark 15, Joseph and Nicodemus finally went public
  • (Mark 15:43) Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body.
  • maybe Joseph's mastering of the moment was the encouragement Nicodemus needed, because in John 19:39 we read
  • (John 19:39) He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds.
  • (John 19:40) Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.
  • Joseph and Nicodemus were no longer undercover Christians
  • they now openly declared their association with Christ
  • Charles Finney, the famous American lawyer/preacher of 160 or so years ago, wrote these words in his Revival Lectures:
    • Prevalence of the fear of man is evidence of a slidden heart. If the heart is full of the love of God, the Lord is feared and not man. A desire for the applause of man is kept down and it is enough to please God, whether men are pleased or displeased. But when the love of God is abated, "the fear of man," that "bringeth a snare," gets possession of the blackslider. TO please man rather than God, is then his aim. In such a state he will sooner offend God than man.
  • almost without exception, historians agree that mass communication has made conformity one of the givens in modern society
  • present citizens of North America are much more alike in their thinking than in previous generations
  • to state it differently, it's increasingly difficult to be different
  • and it's my conviction that this flaw permeates the church today as well
  • so Christians don't like to share their faith with others
  • they don't want to run the risk of being classified as "fanatics"
    • among friends, believers often refrain from taking a stand on matters they feel are wrong because they don't want to embarrass anyone socially
    • at school, a silent prayer is not said in the lunchroom before eating because others might poke fun!
    • to avoid upsetting anyone in the neighborhood, church people don't take a stand on blatant matters like racism, so such evil continues
    • due to social pressures, the call of a young man or woman to a life of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom remain stifled
    • even in the church when opportunity is given to share with the body of believers what Christ is doing, you can be sure certain people will not speak out
    • why? Well they say things like, "My thoughts aren't profound," or "Nobody is interested," but the more likely reason is "I don't want to risk looking foolish"
  • there are people today who have been graciously touched by God's Spirit, but that fact has not been expressed by their lips even once
  • and it may never be if their present pattern continues
  • they fear what others might think
  • am I talking about you?
  • the Bible says that there is a price to openly declaring your allegiance to him
  • what is this about a price? how high is the price? what will the toll be?
  • here are Jesus' exact words
  • Mat 5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Mat 5:11 "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
  • Mat 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
  • to summarize Jesus' words, heaven will make whatever price you had to pay on earth worth it
  • he does not promise an easy road here on earth, quite the opposite, he guarantees a tough one
  • but he says it will be worth it in spades in heaven
  • maybe you say, "We don't hear about price-paying today"
  • "The days of Christians being fed to the lions is over, aren't they?"
  • well, no, not entirely
  • what Jesus was saying then he would say today
  • my followers will pay a price for believing in me and living for me, they always have and they always will
  • I'll give you a quick overview of why they will pay the price
  • the first reason is the value system of Jesus and the value of contemporary society, are always in constant conflict with each other
  • there are collisions between those who approach life from a biblical Christian perspective and those who don't
  • these fender benders happen every day, even more in recent days
  • take the problem of irresponsible sexual expression that's causing unwanted pregnancies by the tens of thousands, sexually transmitted diseases in the tens of millions, suicide rates going through the roof
  • the culture says, "It's a condom problem with a condom solution"
  • Christ-followers say, "It's not a condom problem, it's a character problem"
  • "The solution isn't for sale in vending machines on gas-station walls"
  • we have to realize we all have a self-destructive gravitational pull south in all of us called sin
  • it distorts our entire understanding of life and sexuality, and the only way to conquer sin is through Christ
  • when a Christian goes on public record with a statement on this, they're going to feel some heat
  • the battle lines are drawn
  • when we're asked about our views on homosexuality or abortion, even if we explain as honestly and gently and non-judgmentally, the temperature can drop 15 degrees Celsius
  • it's not very politically correct to be a dedicated Christ-follower these days, if you haven't noticed yet
  • your polls take a dive in many circles, your overnight Nielsen ratings take a beating
  • when you express views culture finds narrow and parochial
  • somebody will say, "You're not the type of Christian who believes in the Bible, in heaven and hell, are you?"
  • people will roll their eyes, and think "you pathetic person, your naivet? is only eclipsed by your ignorance"
  • but what is a Christ follower to do? what do you do?
  • Jesus tells us what to do
  • first, stand firm
  • don't run scared, don't cave in, don't shrink back, stand firm
  • second, smile on the inside, rejoice and be exceedingly bad
  • why are you smiling? because it feels good? no, you know Christ is going to make it worthwhile for you someday in heaven
  • heaven will make our battle scars on earth worthwhile
  • last week's assignment was to challenge something that you thought was offensive to Christ
  • I wonder how many people took this assignment?
  • Christ's system and the world's system are always going to be at odds
  • so don't get too comfortable in this world
  • another reason why we will take hits in this world is because Christ-followers unwittingly become moral irritants in this world if they follow Christ diligently
  • you had a real smart person in grade school, and people hated them because they messed up the curve
  • they made the rest of us look really bad
  • she wasn't trying to be, she just had a good brain and wanted to apply herself
  • so you, or me, we froze them out
  • this happens to a Christ-follower, especially in the marketplace
  • they aren't trying to bug anybody, but because they play it straight and refuses to play politics, refuses to plunder the perk chest, because they put in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay, they get hit
  • they are pains and moral irritations
  • somebody eventually says, "Would you get off your high horse? You Christians are all alike, trying to make us look bad"
  • what's going on here?
  • whenever somebody messes up the moral grading curve, the curve-buster is ostracized
  • Jesus says to this person, stand firm and smile knowing that great will be your reward
  • imagine a married women
  • she becomes a Christian
  • she doesn't fall out of love with him, just with parties and rooms full of inebriated people
  • and she doesn't want to watch pornography any more
  • she doesn't shame her husband, but he says "I've had it up to here with all your pressure"
  • in reality, she isn't preaching
  • her lifestyle is causing moral irritation and his moral backside is exposed
  • what did he do? In Jesus words, insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me
  • she could go back to the parties and pornography, she doesn't want to lose her husband
  • but if his terms are the parties and pornography, what's she to do?
  • but Jesus says, stand firm, grow in integrity and, I know it's tough, but smile in the inside knowing that the price of standing firm may be very high on earth but I'll make it worthwhile in heaven in spades
  • this is not Christianity 101, this is industrial strength
  • one more reason
  • you are probably going to be lumped in with somebody's worst experience with a religious group
  • you're going to take hits you don't deserve
  • lumped in with Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, David Korresh and the fellows
  • it's uncomfortable, but it's inevitable
  • people can be very suspicious of us because they've been beat up and ganged up by other Christians
  • and some of them have been burned by preachers who have had affairs and messed up
  • not all Christians are alike
  • but we get stereotyped and lumped in together
  • what do you do? when you're lumped in unfairly with fringe elements of Christianity
  • stand firm, and whenever you're lumped in with Christian crackpots, smile on the inside
  • but don't shrink back
  • don't put your light under a bushel
  • in the unlikely event that we wind up living in a culture were there's overt hostility and persecution, can we play out in our minds what we'd do?
  • there are places right now where people are gathering doing what they're doing at the risk of imprisonment and death
  • if the threat of imprisonment hung over this, would you come?
  • would you come to the communion table, share your faith, read the Bible?
  • Jesus knew what was going to unfold, the single most brutal time of persecution against Christians
  • people were going to be tortured, fed to lions, for admitting they're Christ followers
  • Jesus knew what was going to happen, and said stand firm when you're thrown into the Coliseum
  • he also said, smile on the inside
  • families were thrown to the lions singing praises to God
  • and Jesus says to us, stand firm, take the hits, don't shrink back, because whatever the price you have to pay on this earth, great is your reward in heaven
  • Luke 9:26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
  • some of us are ashamed of Jesus
  • the Bible tells us that if our faith is a secret from our co-workers, friends and neighbors, Jesus Christ will be ashamed of us
  • we are God's Plan A, and He doesn't have a Plan B
  • the great commission applies to all of us, not an evangelism committee, not the pastors
  • it's not a matter of whether it's practical or not, it's a matter of obedience
  • so I'm going to ask you to take a public stand this next week
  • I'm going to ask you to declare openly in some way that you are a follower of Jesus Christ, no matter what the reaction

Piercing the Darkness (Mark 11:15-17)

  • if you've been following the 50-Day Adventure Journal, today is day 36
  • and you might have noticed that this week's assignment is a little more difficult than usual
  • we've been trying to represent Christ's interests in our community, by trying to see things from Christ's perspective, getting involved in the community, seeing things that are good and bad
  • last week our assignment was this:
    • Ask the Lord to help you express concern about something in your community that you believe disturbs Jesus.
  • in other words, look at the community from Jesus' point of view, and if you see something that displeases him, then ask him for the strength and courage to express your concern
  • but this week's assignment is even tougher
  • it's this:
    • Ask the Lord to help you plan how you can challenge the evil you've identified. How would he have you express his righteous anger in this situation?

  • this morning we won't talk about Thanksgiving in the message
  • instead, I want us to think about confronting evil in the community
  • would you turn and read your Bibles along with me in Mark 11:15-17
  • (Mark 11:15) On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves,
  • (Mark 11:16) and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.
  • (Mark 11:17) And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written: "'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations' ? But you have made it 'a den of robbers.'"

  • we don't usually think of Jesus doing this sort of thing
  • we sing about "gentle Jesus, meek and mild"
  • we don't think about Christ physically confronting that which is so offensive to him

  • in those days, a temple tax had to be paid by everyone, and it was usually paid at the time of the Passover season
  • people brought all sorts of coinage, because unlike today, all sorts of coinage were used for everyday purposes
  • however, when you came to the Temple, you had to pay your Temple tax with coinage that did not have the king's head on it, because to a Jew, a coin with the king's head on it was a graven image

  • money changers therefore changed the coins, but they charged each pilgrim the equivalent of a day's wages for exchanging the money

  • in addition, you would bring an offering
  • you could buy a dove outside the Temple, but the Temple had inspectors and would always find a flaw in any animal bought outside
  • so instead, they said, "Just buy one from our Temple stalls. They have already been inspected"
  • outside the Temple, you could buy a dove for a day's wages, but inside the Temple they charged the equivalent of 45 day's wages
  • this so infuriated Jesus
  • and he swept the money changers and the cattle dealers out of the Temple because they were turning the only part of it to which the Gentiles could go into a shop, and a dishonest shop at that

  • by the way, Christ knew that his action would precipitate a showdown with the Jewish leaders, even though it made him popular with the masses
  • this was the way to the cross

  • if Jesus were in Etobicoke today, what would he do?
  • what abuses wouldn't he tolerate?
  • if we are to follow in Jesus' footsteps, we had better confront evil in society where it exists
  • mind you, it will be costly
  • but the real question is: did Jesus save your soul just for your own benefit, or does he expect you to have an impact on those around you, and the world?

  • in his excellent book The Road to Reality, K.P. Yohannan of India, the president of Gospel for Asia, writes:
    • I'm convinced the main reason why we are not impacting our generation for Christ is our refusal to be honest with Christianity. We have offered the world a gospel without sacrifice and suffering. We've done everything we can to apologize for Christ's demands and explain them away. We've told people that Jesus didn't really mean what He said - that they can have Christ without His cross.
    • The result is around us. We have apologetic, defensive, shallow Christians whose faith can't turn the next corner, let alone turn the world upside down.
  • what does it look like when a Christian confronts evil?

  • Dennis Shere was publisher of the Dayton, Ohio Daily News
  • one day, the Dayton Gay and Lesbian Center approached the newspaper with an advertisement to promote a speakers series at the center dealing with health issues, and the availability of support services for lesbians and gay men
  • Shere rejected the ad and was fired
  • he explains: "I have been dismissed for refusing to run advertising from the homosexual community. I was told I could remain as publisher if I would adjust my position on this issue. In the past, I have tried to balance my Christian perspective with the demands of running the newspaper. I have compromised where appropriate without violating my principles. My conscience and concern for the community would not allow me to compromise on the issue"

  • what would Jesus do if he were publisher of the Dayton, Ohio Daily News?
  • would he accept an advertisement advertising gay and lesbian services?
  • do they have a right to expression too?
  • what is our responsibility to our employers?
  • what would Jesus do? What would you do?

  • William Wilberforce was the only son of prosperous merchant parents
  • after his graduation from Cambridge, he was elected to the Parliament of England in 1780
  • in those days, corruption was so widespread that few members of Parliament thought twice about accepting bribes for their votes from those involved in the slave trade
  • in 1785, Wilberforce became a Christian and met up with a clergyman by the name of John Newton, a former slave trader and the author of the famous hymn Amazing Grace

  • not many witnessed the horror of the slave trade firsthand, but here is what happened:
  • people were captured from tribal wars, or from jail, and some were just kidnapped
  • they were enslaved and held in a stockade on the African coast until sold to the highest bidder
  • once purchased, they were branded and rowed to the schooner waiting offshore, their screams and cries ignored by the seamen who hoisted them aboard and chained them in the stinking hold, 500 African men and women packed like sardines in brine
  • the crew of the ship would often help themselves to whatever slave women they chose
  • several weeks into the voyage, many of the slaves would be dead, and each morning several dead or near-dead bodies were thrown overboard to the sharks
  • for those who survived the three-month journey, they were auctioned naked in the marketplace to planters who would work them to death on their Caribbean plantations
  • never again would these African men and women see their homeland

  • on a foggy Sunday morning in 1787, Wilberforce sat at his desk and asked himself:
  • did God save him only to rescue his own soul?
  • he concluded that if Christianity was true and meaningful, it must go deeper than that
  • it must bring God's compassion to the oppressed as well as oppose the oppressors
  • at that moment, all he could envision were loaded slave ships leaving the coasts of Africa, and he wrote this in his journal:
  • "Almighty God has set before me two great objectives: the abolition of the slave trade, and the reformation of manners."

  • in 1788, in the midst of a sickness, he convinced the Prime Minister of the day to introduce the abolition of slavery in the House for him
  • and thus began the fight
  • one man angrily cried out, "Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade public life"
  • working day and night for abolition, his attempts failed in the House in 1789 and 1791
  • in 1792, he realized that they were not going to win the battle in the House, but in public opinion
  • he soon was able to come to the House of Commons with 519 petitions for the total abolition of the slave trade, signed by thousands of British subjects
  • backed into a corner, the House passed Wilberforce's motion to ban slavery, but not before they added the word gradually
  • and not too long after, they defeated Wilberforce's motion again
  • year after year, Wilberforce doggedly re-introduced his motion, and each year Parliament threw it out
  • in 1796, it looked like it would finally be passed - but the night of the vote, a dozen supporters skipped Parliament for the opera, and Wilberforce lost by just four votes

  • and so it went - 1797, 1798, 1799, 1800, 1801, and on
  • in 1804, the House of Commons finally voted for his motion by a majority of 124 to 49, but the House of Lords adjourned the bill until the next session
  • in 1805, the House of Commons reversed itself, rejecting the bill by seven votes
  • in 1807, the bill passed the House of Lords and was sent to the House of Commons
  • one by one, members jumped to their feet to decry the evils of the slave trade and to praise the men who had worked so hard to end it
  • as the debate came to its climax, Sir Samuel Romilly gave a passionate tribute to Wilberforce and his decades of labor
  • and the entire House rose, cheering and applauding
  • realizing that his long battle had come to an end, Wilberforce sat bent into his chair, his head in his hands, tears streaming down his face
  • the motion carried, 283 to 16
  • years of illness, defeat, and ridicule had taken their toll on Wilberforce
  • but as he left the House, he turned to a friend and said, "Well, Henry, what do we abolish next?"

  • sure enough, he fought another 18 years for the total emancipation of existing slaves, and also continued his work for reforms in the prisons, among the poor, and in the workplace
  • on July 29, 1833, three days after the Bill for the Abolition of Slavery passed its second reading in the House of Commons, sounding the final death blow for slavery, Wilberforce died
  • "Thank God," he whispered before he slipped into a final coma, "that I should have lived to witness a day in which England was willing to give twenty million sterling for the abolition of slavery"

  • one excellent Wilberforce biography is aptly titled God's Politician
  • and truly he was, holding his country to God's standard of moral accountability
  • his dogged campaign to rid the British empire of the slave trade shows what can happen when a citizen of the Kingdom of God challenges corrupt structures within the kingdoms of man

  • what about you?
  • Must I be carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease
  • While others fought to win the prize, and sailed through bloody seas?

  • Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
  • Is this vile world a friend to grace, to help me on to God?

  • God could be calling some of you to action this morning
  • the question Wilberforce faced was this:
  • did God save him only to rescue his own soul?
  • or did he save us so that we could make a difference to others?
  • God might be calling a Wilberforce here this morning to turn the tide of public opinion on the issue of abortion
  • he might be calling someone here this morning to try to rid the corner store of pornography
  • but God is calling all of us to ask this morning, "What would Jesus do?"
  • what are you going to do?

  • let's pray
  • Dear Father, this morning is Thanksgiving
  • and we have much to thank you for
  • you are a kind and benevolent Father, who never fails to provide for us
  • this morning we realize that with our great privilege we also have great responsibility
  • and one of these responsibilities is to confront the evil that is so real in this world
  • it might be in the school system
  • it might be a political matter
  • it might be the House of Lancaster on the Queensway
  • it could be the pornography sold at the corner store
  • but you call us to confront that which displeases you
  • Lord, help us not just to hear this message and walk away without taking action
  • give us courage to confront the evil that is so present in the world
  • for we pray in Christ's name, Amen.

We Need Each Other (Hebrews 10:23-25)

  • have you ever wondered why people come to church?
  • it sure can't be for the message
  • we get them in here, and then tell them that they're disgusting, vile sinners with no hope of receiving eternal life on their own merit
  • and we call that the good news, the Gospel
  • and then we get them seated, and they listen to a minister ramble on for about half an hour and tell a couple of sick jokes
  • even if people did come for the message, the reality is that on any given Sunday morning there are probably far more really good sermons to be heard on the television than in this church
  • it can't be what we expect of people
  • we tell them it's their job to give up all their rights, be crucified with Christ, die to themselves daily, and to look out for the interests of others instead of their own
  • we tell them they better get busy in some sort of ministry of serving others within the church, or cleaning the church, or visiting seniors or prisoners, or shame on them for being pew potatoes
  • and then every week we pass around a bag and ask them to give up significant amounts of their hard-earned money to support God's work
  • it can't be for the benefits
  • when people take a new job, they're always interested in salary and benefits
  • here we tell you that there is no salary and there are no benefits
  • you're in it for life, and maybe in heaven God will reward you
  • so why do people come to church?
  • there are many reasons, but I would say the number one reason is this: community
  • we need each other
  • I would argue that it is impossible to live the Christian life without the support of brothers and sisters in Christ
  • that is precisely why God did not make us into lone ranger Christians, struggling on our own, listening to tapes of sermons and watching religious programs, and reading our Bibles and praying at home by ourselves
  • instead, when God saved us, he said, "Look, I've done some work on your soul. But when you're born, you're born into a family, and when you're born again, you're born into your second family - the church"
  • the first miracle is the spiritual rebirth
  • but the second miracle is that he places us in a spiritual family
  • we've been talking these past few weeks about what Christ would do if he came to this community
  • we've asked ourselves, "What would Jesus do in this situation?"
  • and we've realized that if Jesus were walking this earth today, he would be a friend of sinners, he would act as salt and light in this world
  • next week and the week after, we're going to talk about taking on the forces of evil in God's name, openly declaring that we're involved with him
  • but I'll tell you something
  • it's not going to happen unless we draw support from the fellowship of believers
  • please open your Bibles this morning to Hebrews 10
  • (Hebrews 10:23) Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
  • (Hebrews 10:24) And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
  • (Hebrews 10:25) Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
  • from this passage I want to address two commands we need to keep
  • two basic necessities if we're going to make it to the finish line
  • and the first is in verse 23
  • (Hebrews 10:23) Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
  • WE ARE TO HOLD UNSWERVINGLY TO THE HOPE WE PROFESS
  • this is the basic goal of the Christian life
  • to hold unswervingly
  • the word unswervingly is sometimes translated without wavering
  • it has the idea of staying true and firm without hesitation
  • this is a call to confess in a hostile world the object of our faith, despite a fear of rejection
  • in the case of the Hebrews, being a Christian meant risking persecution
  • it appears that these Jewish Christians were getting ready to give up the struggle and to revert to Judaism
  • and the writer builds a strong case for the supremacy of Christ over the Jewish sacrificial system
  • but then he issues this challenge: hold unswervingly to the hope we profess
  • you know, it's not always easy to follow Christ
  • when we follow him, we can expect difficulties and trials
  • and many of us will be tempted to give up
  • but hold unswervingly to the hope you profess
  • and it's not easy to live the Christian life
  • we regularly disappoint others and God, not to mention ourselves
  • it's so easy to be a Christian on a Sunday, but what about the day to day obedience?
  • what about when you catch yourself bad-mouthing other people?
  • what about when we entertain impure thoughts in our minds?
  • like the early Jewish Christians, there is a very real possibility that we could become discouraged and give up
  • and that's where the other command comes in
  • verses 24 and 25 say
  • (Hebrews 10:24) And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
  • (Hebrews 10:25) Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
  • THE WRITER SAYS: MEET TOGETHER FOR ENCOURAGEMENT AND TO BE SPURRED ON
  • the only way that we're going to be able to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess is if we have the support of other Christians to help us
  • brothers need brothers and sisters need sisters
  • there is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian
  • at one time I thought the main purpose of church is to hear sermons, sing a little, and then go out and get 'em
  • in fact, I was part way through seminary until I knew any differently
  • in seminary, I wrote a paper that mentioned that basically salvation is a personal matter
  • believe me, when I got the paper back, I found out that salvation isn't a personal matter
  • when God saves us, he puts us in a community of his children so we can have fellowship with one another
  • true fellowship has the power to revolutionize lives
  • masks come off, conversations get deep, hearts get vulnerable, lives are shared
  • accountability is invited and tenderness flows
  • people really do become like brothers and sisters
  • they shoulder each other's burdens
  • when the word fellowship or the Greek word koinonia appears in the New Testament, it always has togetherness in mind
  • sharing something together or sharing in something together
  • you see, the early Christians had a lot in common with each other
  • they were together
  • they didn't just come to worship like an isolated bag of marbles that made a lot of noise as they banged together, then marched out in single file
  • no, they came together like a cluster of ripe grapes
  • persecution pushed them together, and they bled on each other
  • their lives naturally ran into each other
  • and today as we experience fellowship, we too can become more valuable as our lives become entwined with one another, moving closer together, feeling each others' strain and struggles, deeply caring for each other
  • did you know that when someone talks about the "right hand of fellowship," that is actually a biblical expression from Galatians 2:9?
  • the apostle Paul is describing how willingly they reached out and put their arms around each other
  • they enfolded themselves in one another's lives
  • over and over, the Bible talks about our responsibility to each other
  • Romans 12:10 says we're to be "devoted...[and] give preference to one another"
  • Romans 15:7 says to "Accept one another"
  • 1 Corinthians 12:25 tells us to "Care for one another"
  • Galatians 6:2 commands, "Bear one another's burdens"
  • I could go on
  • "Encourage...and build up one another" (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
  • "Confess your sins to...and pray for each other" (James 5:16)
  • "Serve one another" (1 Peter 4:10)
  • "Love one another" (1 John 4:11)
  • and four times in the New Testament we're commanded to greet each other with a holy kiss
  • that's fellowship!
  • one person writes this:
    • People are hungry for acceptance, love and friends, and unless they find them in the church they may not stay there long enough to become personally related to Christ. People are not persuaded-they're attracted.
  • unfortunately, fellowship in most churches means only 15 or 20 minutes of shallow conversation after the service
  • in many churches, it doesn't seem legal to tell anyone you're having a problem
  • the implicit understanding is that you shouldn't have a problem, and if you do, you'd better not talk about it around the church
  • we need each other!
  • Howard Hendricks says, "You can impress people at a distance; you can only impact them up close. The general principle is this: the closer the personal relationship, the greater the potential for impact"
  • people grow in relationships
  • in a relationship where there is trust, there is vulnerability
  • there can be a willingness to admit need and to explore change
  • there can be the support and follow-through needed to sustain growth
  • God understands the impact one person can have on another
  • he made that point a long time ago
  • in Proverbs 27:17 he wrote, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another"
  • think about it
  • who has had the greatest spiritual impact on your life?
  • think about the time that you spent with that person
  • think about the things you did
  • perhaps it was a college professor, a youth pastor, a friend, your spouse, your parents
  • regardless of who it was, you had a relationship with that person
  • you knew that he or she cared about you
  • you probably spent time together
  • and you have them permission, formally or informally, to check up on you
  • of all you did together, they key to their influence on you was your relationship with them - the way they shared your life with you
  • we need this with each other
  • especially if we're going to fight for Christ and take a stand for him
  • the reality is, we won't be able to do this with everyone
  • someone has said we're like Lego pieces: we only have six snaps, and when six people are attached to us, there isn't any room for any more
  • but there are some things we can do
  • these suggestions come from a book called Growing a Healthy Church:
  • the first is, USE LOBBY TIME
  • don't go running off after the service
  • before and after services, meetings, and Bible studies, devote your time to meaningful contact with other people
  • some of the most meaningful relationships begin to develop in church lobbies before or after services
  • second suggestion: PICK UP THE PHONE
  • reach out and touch someone
  • sometimes when a schedule is tight, a phone call can accomplish a great deal
  • it will never replace in-person contact, but it can supplement other efforts
  • a call just to touch base and say hello can be significant
  • third, use the mailbox
  • make it your habit to write personal notes to people
  • our mailboxes are increasingly filled with impersonal junk mail, so a handwritten note stands out
  • it does not have to be long or elaborate
  • but written notes convey to people that you care about them and that you're thinking about them
  • remember personal crises
  • don't underestimate the power of your presence with someone during a crisis
  • it's called "being there"
  • I always love it when someone says, "Thanks for being there"
  • it's my goal to be there for the significant people in my life
  • look for mutual interests
  • what do you like to do in your spare time?
  • play golf? Hunt? Shop? Work on your car? Are you a garage sale nut?
  • without a doubt, there are people in the church and non-Christians in your sphere of influence who enjoy the same thing
  • why not double your efforts?
  • seek those people, and involve them with you
  • the time you share together will build a common bond between you
  • another suggestion is to admit your own need
  • have you learned the value of being in need?
  • at times we tell ourselves we have to be in control, and that we can't admit our own needs
  • yet those times when we need assistance from others are often the times we become the most human
  • the very time we feel like isolating things from people is the time we need to be with people the most
  • the last suggestion is to take the scalpel to your schedule
  • sooner or later you will need to conduct surgery on your schedule
  • why not take the time this week to look over your schedule
  • candidly evaluate the activities that are crowding out your time for people
  • make time available for people
  • this morning I ask you to hold unswervingly to the hope you profess
  • and the only way you can do this is to draw support from the fellowship of believers