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"I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God." -Philippians 1:9-11
I hope that today, during this Lenten season and beyond that your goal is to glorify God and bring him much praise. God has made us perfect forever through Jesus Christ. The sum of his righteous life, his righteous character, and all his righteous living, including his selfless, righteous death on the cross has been imputed to you. We receive this imputed righteousness through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
You wear daily the perfect robe of righteousness which is the gift of Jesus. Essentially Jesus made a trade with us. He took my filthy torn robe, covered in the sins I’ve committed over my life, the addiction, the depravity, the immorality, the evil works, the thefts, all the lies, and all the evil and put that on for me. Someone had to deal with it. And in exchange he gave me the perfect, spotless white robe that he had rightfully earned through his perfect life.
Romans chapter 13 verse 14 says “clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Every morning for the past few months I’ve been praying a simple prayer: Lord Jesus, I put you on as my perfect coat of righteousness.” And if I’m having a tough day or facing spiritual warfare, I also include; “And I put on the armor of God, that I may stand against every attack of the enemy.”
The truth is we have an enemy in this world. And we have to be prepared to fight him every day. Thankfully as the word says, greater is Him (Jesus) who lives in me, than he who is in the world.
I remember when I first got saved. I was amazed, stupefied really. I had gone from the blackest darkness, a sorrowful rebellious life and I’d been moved into the kingdom of God. The presence of God was with me. My thinking had been so permanently dark. And suddenly I was in the light. The joy of that was astonishing. I was so grateful to God for giving himself to me in Jesus. My life was truly fundamentally transformed.
Many things in my life changed instantly, as a necessary response to the spiritual rebirth. But there were many issues in my life at that time. I was a mess. I knew I had begun a lifelong journey of walking with Jesus, week in and week out, and I had also begun a lifelong journey of repentance.
Which is what we’re talking about today: Humility which leads us to repentance. In fact lent is all about repentance as we approach the celebration of the resurrection.
As the scriptures say, “ You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,[a]
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
he took the humble position of a slave[c]
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
Humility is so vital in our lives, more and more so I think as we get older and achieve accomplishments. As I begin this journey of lifelong ministry I see more and more that the single greatest danger that faces me is pride. Pride, ego. Slowly but surely over the years the danger seems to be that it could slowly start to become not about Jesus, but about the person. Slowly but surely it could become about the organization, and not the glory of God. What a terrible, dangerous thing pride is! It’s insidious in that it can take anything that is fundamentally good and pervert it to serve evil.
Time and again in the scriptures we see how pride destroys great leaders. Think of King Solomon and all he accomplished, yet all of it was undermined by pride and sexual immorality. King David, same thing, great leader, wise, humble man, yet sexuality immorality and pride damaged his ministry, and caused him to murder. The Pharisees allowed pride to blind them to the coming of their own glorious savior.
We must remain humble, no matter what we’ve accomplished, no matter how much we’ve done to serve the Lord. Because ultimately it all rests on what Jesus Christ has done to die in our place. Our works are filthy rags when compared to the eternal glory of Christ. So we rest upon Jesus, humbly, looking to his ultimate example of humility, and so we ought become increasingly willing to repent.
We’ll never repent if the ego is out of control. Why? Because how could someone so perfect and powerful and awesome be doing something wrong? Or if someone in the church came up to me, and they rebuked me for a sin in my life. “How dare they say that to me, don’t they know who I am? I’m the pastor, I’m the intern. I’m a lay leader.” Etc,etc.
So humility leads us to repentance. What is repentance? Well according to Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary, which I don’t know if any of you know this, but Noah Webster the founder of the dictionary insisted that he felt called by God to write a dictionary. Amazing stuff. He calls us all to different things, right?
One of the several definitions he gives is: “Repentance is a change of mind, or a conversion from sin to God.”
And it also says: “Repentance is the relinquishment of any practice, from conviction that it has offended God.”
The idea of the repentance is always carried hand in hand with the gospel message. As Jesus said in Mark 1:15: “The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!"
A few other times this combination is used in scripture, Matthew 4:17, Luke 24:46-48, Acts 3:19, Romans 2:4, Revelation 3:3, and 2nd Corinthians 7:9-10.
So repentance is vital. Repentance is the fruit of our response to the incredible grace of God found in Jesus. We repent and believe. John the Baptist gathered the people preparing the way for the Lord, baptizing them in the baptism of repentance from dead works.
During lent it’s customary that we give up certain things in our lives, maybe it’s meat, maybe it’s candy, maybe it’s chocolate, or soda, or alcohol, or things like that. But I’d like to challenge you to go a step further: What can we give up permanently that is displeasing to the Lord in our lives?
I know in my life, I’ve been tempted to not take sin as seriously as I should. But time and again in the New Testament we’re instructed to take sin very seriously and as a just response to the grace of God, to live the most pure lives. We shouldn’t set that aside.
So let’s look at four areas of repentance, some very practical ways that we can challenge ourselves, and invite the Holy Spirit to set us free.
William Booth the founder of the Salvation Army penned this phrase in his diary: "God shall have all there is of William Booth." I hope that is your prayer as well, a total surrender to God, a total giving of yourself to the Lord, so that you may cry out to Him: God you must have all there is of me.” Let’s look at four areas where we must fight to surrender all to God.
Uh oh. Some of us can be real “jokers” when it comes to money. In this area, I’d like to share a blessing. I had never tithed 10% in the past. I don’t know why exactly. I think I was suspicious early on, that the church just wanted my money. But when I first got to this church a member here talked to me about tithing. He spoke very much from his own experience, not really telling me “you have to tithe!” But, “I tithed, and this is what happened in my life.”
Ten percent God asks for from us. He owns 100% of it. Yet he asks for ten from us, to donate back to his cause. He doesn’t need it. But he asks us to give it. This member of the church told me how he always tithed ten percent and in return, he received joy, and financial blessings. Ironically we think we have so little that we can’t possibly give 10%. But when we’re faithful and we do give that ten percent, it’s like God pours out blessing after blessing for honoring him. I noticed that. When I didn’t tithe, it was like I never had enough money. Yet ironically, when I did tithe that ten percent, I seemed to have more money than I knew what to do with. In the area of the tithe, God challenges us in the scriptures to “test Him.” We are told to never test God, but in this area, God invites us to test him. That’s from Malachi chapter 3 if you want to study that. Give 10% of the 100% that God gives you. You won’t regret it. I know I haven’t.
On a side note, let me tell you, every single time I repent in an area, and God grants the victory, it’s like I get a new joy in my life. I don’t feel dirty as I live my life, but I feel more pure and clean, and the sunlight of God’s presence, which is joy, becomes stronger and more perceivable to me.
We have the wrong attitude about repentance much of the time I think. It’s not a grueling drudgery; it’s actually a joyous turning to God, and growing closer to Him. It’s almost like a role playing video game, when you level up, you know your level 23 paladin, then you level up to level 24, and your stronger and have more keen abilities and strengths.
Next area. Uh oh.
For those of you who are married, the biggest dangers you face are pornography and the possibility of an affair. Especially for Christian leaders, these are two of Satan’s favorite weapons.
For single people like me, well, it’s a lot more tough. Welcome to the minefield, for those who are single. Our culture today, our media, magazines, billboards, television, internet, social media is utterly saturated with sex. From booze commercials to music videos to movies and just walking along a beach, it’s a constant battle with tempting images of half-clad men and women. And as Jesus said, if one lusts after a person in their heart, it’s the same as committing adultery with that person.” Additionally, even if your single and you meet someone, God’s design is for sexual intimacy to occur only after a lifetime commitment has been made.
This is such a tough area, and a tough subject. Our culture is absolutely saturated and I am 100% certain that is by design of the enemy. If the enemy can get us hooked on sexual addiction, on masturbation, or on relationship-addiction, he really has us under his thumb.
I’ve seen so many Christian leaders fall to affairs. And I can imagine how it happens. His wife is driving him nuts. And then he meets “the girl who understands.” And the chemistry between them is just electric. They become friends, and spend time together. And eventually the conversations and lunches turn to flirtations. Nothing wrong with that right? As long as it doesn’t go anywhere. And eventually the lunches become dinners, and the dinners become visiting the home. And pretty soon this leader is in the pulpit, apologizing, and resigning from the church. And he’s trying to pick up the pieces with his wife and children. I imagine the relationship appears so great at first, then after the first affair, a terrible feeling of shame comes over like a storm cloud. That’s exactly how Satan works. Bait the trap, get all the emotions going in one direction, then once the deed is done, Satan moves in as accuser, as shame, as guilt, and as darkness to condemn the person for what he just conned them into doing. He always seems to find a way to bring it out into the open too, so everyone knows about it.
Pornography, well, pornography addiction is rampant within the church. It’s ugly, and terrible for several reasons. 1, often those involved are slaves, sex trafficked persons forced to perform for the cameras. 2, pornography accustoms our minds to objectify those of the opposite sex. 3, pornography the images we see, often will remain with us for years. And they can be conjured by our mind, voluntarily or involuntarily at any moment. It is a terrible thing.
If you struggle with pornography, there are many great books, audiobooks, and ways to get over that addiction. Always start with prayer, and take action to find resources to deal with the issue. One excellent book I can recommend is “Every Man’s Battle” by Stephen Arterburn. And the Sex Addicts Anonymous big book.
Speaking of addiction. We could talk about cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs but I think most of us understand those sorts of addictions and where to go for help. But specifically for lent, let’s talk about over-eating. It’s something our culture and society don’t talk about much. But it seems to be a big problem. Several of the leading causes of death in the United States are related directly to eating, such as heart disease (#1) and diabetes (7th) according to the CDC.
Our bodies are temples of the Lord. I’m certain that God wants us to honor him in how we eat. Something I’ve done recently is trying to cut back on my portions. I had really been fooling myself on portions. 8 eggs for breakfast? Sheesh. Now I eat 5. I cut out a lot of the meats and fatty chicken in my diet. I tried to cut about 1/4th from my portions. And I try to eat more vegetables now. Something terrible going on for me, was soda addiction. I was up to about 5 pops a day. By the grace of God, I’m now totally free of soda. And I’ve noticed, I eat less. The stuff in soda makes you hungry, I really think. And quitting soda is tough, because something in the soda is quite addicting. How can you begin to address this issue in your life, if you have an issue with it? There are lots of great ways to help overcome overeating. As always, start by praying about it every night.
I can’t. God can. So I think I’ll let God take away the problem. Not that he’ll help me, but that he’ll actually do the mighty work and complete it in me, as long as I surrender to His lordship over the area of my life.
There are so many other areas we could talk about, lying, stealing, and honoring our parents. But for the sake of time, we’ll move on to our final area for today:
Once again, we live in a culture where it’s all about me. It’s perfectly embodied in the selfie. Take pictures of me, and put them on the internet! Me me me. What do I want? What’s on my bucket list? What can I do to please me? To pleasure me? Who do I want to be with? What do I want to be when I grow up? How can I get what I want?
Selfishness is ultimately idolatry. In ancient times they bowed down to false gods and idols made of wood and stone. Today we bow down to ourselves and our own hungers. I want what I want when I want it. Me, me, me.
God must be first in our lives.
God is sovereign over our money.
God is sovereign over our sex lives.
God is sovereign over our appetites.
God is sovereign over our wants and desires.
Jesus Christ humbled himself, to die on the cross to set us free from sin. This humbling leads us to humility. And Humility leads us to repentance, and repentance leads to joy. Embrace that process this Lenten season, and challenge yourself, in the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome everything in your life that dares to hold you back, so you can become all God has designed you to be.
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