Sunday, June 24, 2018

White Garments of Righteousness: How to Get Clean and Build a New Life

Audio Message:

So here we are, fighting for our lives. We’re fighting a deadly opponent, and that opponent is addiction. We’re on a spiritual journey to defeat addiction. And I know each of you are at different points in your journey of overcoming addiction in Christ. There is no other answer to the addictions that we face, not in the intensity that we face it now. Only Christ.

All of you are at different points in your battle. Some of you don’t even know if God is really real, or if Jesus is really a living savior. Maybe you don’t even know if you really want to stay clean. A lot of you are just saying what we want to hear, and going through the motions. Some of you are even considering getting up and leaving, because your mad, or in pain, or playing the victim, and you want to go back to what’s familiar. And we’re gonna talk today, you and I.

Then there are those of you who have realized that you need God. Your eyes are starting to open. Your starting to see that lush, beautiful path of recovery opening up before you. You can hear the birds chirping along the road, you can feel the bright sun shining down, and there is hope in your eyes. Your starting to walk down that spiritual path, your mind is starting to open up, and your realizing that God is your creator. We’re gonna talk today, if that’s you.

Thirdly, we’ve got those who have taken the dive into the love of Jesus Christ. There are those of you here who are truly reborn. You’ve received Jesus as your savior. You’ve totally committed your life to Jesus. You’ve come to believe the Bible is the word of God. You’ve realized that you need to live an entirely new lifestyle of recovery and faith every week. Your going to AA, your going to NA, your working the steps, your reading your Bible and praying every day, your hungry for spiritual food, and your ready to move forward into maturity in Christ. We’re gonna talk today too.

And you’ll see as we go on, how all this fits into our scripture reading today, of the church Jesus counsels to receive gifts from Him. Jesus said to the church in Laodicea, Revelation 3:15-18 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

Jesus tells them that they are broken, pathetic and miserable. Sound a lot like addiction doesn’t it? But Jesus quickly offers the remedy: (Three things) Salve for your eyes, a white robe of righteousness, and refined gold. What does Jesus mean?

1. Salve for your Eyes

To the first group of men, those of you who don’t understand, you don’t get this God stuff, you don’t believe, I’m speaking to you now:

Jesus Christ will open the eyes of your heart. In and of ourselves, we can’t perceive spiritual things. We only see the physical, we only see this world. But Jesus will open your eyes. But I’d like to give you some knowledge to chew on in your mind first…

The question: “Does God exist?” is a great question. And God does not fear our questions. There is good evidence to believe that God exists.

Scientists tell us that the universe came into existence from a big bang several billion years ago. That may or may not be true. But if you do believe in a big bang, let me ask you this: Can a big bang explode into existence from nothing? Scientists tell us that before the big bang occurred there was nothing. And then suddenly there was an explosion that caused the universe. A fair question is: Who banged it? Who caused it? I would submit to you, that God is the most reasonable explanation for this universe’s existence. The Bible says that the universe was formless and void, and then God created.

Secondly, scientists admit that this world we live in appears to be finely tuned to allow for life to exist. A nobel prize winner once indicated that a single cell in your body is more complex than New York city. It’s true. Look around you at this world, there are stars in the sky at night. The Earth is just the right distance from the sun to allow for life. If you changed anything, moved the Earth a little closer, or a little further away, no life. If there was no moon, no life. If there was no Jupiter, to protect the Earth from asteroids, there would be no life. Without earthquakes, no life. Without lightning, no life. There are birds flying through the sky, animals walking along the ground. Plants and nature produce food just right for us to eat and survive. It’s insane. And they want to tell us that this is all random? It’s ridiculous. The best explanation for the complexity of life on Earth, is that God designed the Earth for us to live on.

Thirdly, we can trust the Bible is the word of God. There are about 5,686 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, all matching one another; in historical terms, such evidence is unmatched, it's unheard of, a revelation, a divine fingerprint on history itself! Has it been changed over time? When comparing our modern Bible with the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls, which sat untouched for 2,000 years, they matched perfectly. Therefore, by all available accounts the New testament is accurate.

You can believe. You can come to understand who Jesus Christ is. You can be set free from drug addiction and alcoholism. Dare to step out in faith. Dare to believe. But all you have to do is make a beginning, and at least start down the road. But most importantly of all… let me just communicate this: There is hope. There is really hope. You’re going to have to walk through a lot of pain to heal. Take hope. Open your eyes.

2. White Garments of Righteousness

Next I’d like to speak to you guys who have begun the spiritual journey. You’re walking the road. You’ve come to realize your need for God. And now God is calling you to make a decision, and to turn your whole will, and life, and future, and soul over to Jesus Christ. Jesus is calling you to put on the pure white garments of His righteousness. I’ll tell you how, listen closely.

Jesus, born in Bethlehem, 2 thousand years ago was God himself, come into human history. Why Jesus matters is because he is not just a man, he is literally God come in person. Can your mind comprehend the expansiveness of that fact? The God who made this entire planet from nothing came into human history.

He was tempted in every way we are, and he successfully resisted. Jesus grew up, just like we do, then around age 30, He began his mission. And His mission was to save us. But to save us from what? The problem we face is sin. One of the fundamentals in understanding Jesus is understanding our own brokenness.

We’ve sinned against God. We’ve used drugs, drank, hurt people around us, and done evil. We’ve literally ruined our minds and bodies to being near death. Many of us never grew up. We lived as man-boys, serving ourselves and living for self. And now it’s time for us to grow up, and become men of honor.

But How? We can’t do it alone. Many of us have tried, and slipped back down into the pit. There is only one way: Jesus.

Jesus, in completing his mission, was betrayed, falsely charged, and sentenced to be crucified. But far from being a surprise to Jesus, this was the very reason He had come. He was going to do something on that cross that would save us.

While Jesus was on the cross, slowly dying, from noon until 3pm it went completely dark. What was happening spiritually during those 3 hours? Jesus Christ was being offered up, as a sacrifice for our sins. He became forsaken for our drug habit, for our binges, manipulations, lies and sexual debauchery. And after three hours of darkness, Jesus cried out saying: “Father, father why have you forsaken me?”

Then Jesus let out a brutal scream, and He died. But then something happened that changed everything. 3 days later, Jesus resurrected from the dead. He showed himself to his disciples. He came to Thomas, a disciple who refused to believe that Jesus could really come back from the dead. Jesus showed him his hands, holes still in them. And Jesus said, “Stop doubting and believe.” And for some of you out there today, he is saying the same thing: Stop doubting and believe.

We were in a court room you and I, and our sins were being read off against us, all the evil we’ve done in our lives. And we knew that the sentence would be eternity in hell. But Jesus Christ walked into that court room and said, judge, put those sins on my back instead, I’ll pay the penalty for him. And if you will believe Jesus Christ is your savior, and ask Him to set you free from your sins, and turn your whole will and life over to Him, then you’ll be born again. And if you live the rest of your life for Jesus, you’ll go to eternal life when you die.

Jesus will help you to turn away from drugs, from alcohol, from cigarettes, from pornography, from lies and manipulation. Jesus will help you become the man you were always meant to be. Become the hero of your spiritual journey. Become a mighty man of valor. Receive Jesus Christ, put on the garments of His righteousness.

But remember: This is a lifelong journey. This is not one and done. We have to follow Him all our days, with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. All. And as addicts in recovery, we know how to give our all to something. We gave it all to drugs, held nothing back, now we must give it all to Jesus Christ, and serve Him with that same single-minded dedication. There is no middle ground. Only heaven and hell. Jesus, or self. Make your choice.

Revelation 3:19-20 says: “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

3. Gold Refined in the Fire

Lastly, to the third group. You know Christ. Your clean and sober. You’ve been here a while. You’re going to meetings. You’re going to Bible studies and services. Now, it’s time to go on into Christian maturity. Christ is calling you to be as gold refined in the fire.

God has called us to be holy as He is holy. Do this in the power of Christ. We must repent of every sin that we struggle with, and be holy and blameless. That is what God has called us to. God will set you free. He delights to. And how does God refine us as gold? Through the fires of suffering, struggles, and great trials.

When God removes a sin from my life, and sets me free… It’s like I’ve been through a storm. I open my hand, and God takes the sin from me. The storm ends, and the sun shines brightly. And I realize His presence with me is stronger and more real than before. I’ve taken another step into a larger world.

Every time we go through a trial, God is refining our heart, to make our hearts more pure. So this 3rd area is about inviting God to purify our hearts. God will then pour out pure love into your heart.

Revelation 3:21-22 says: “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Applications: So how do we live this out?

Surrender is the key to all three of these areas: coming to believe in God, receiving Christ as savior, and going on to maturity. Surrendering is an act of the will, it’s a choice. Either we fight it or we do it.

William Booth founder of the SA said: “The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.” It’s time give it all up brothers. It’s time to surrender everything to God. God must have all there is of you. Nothing less will do: Only total surrender.

Once we’ve made our surrender, at the altar, we get to work. We take dutiful, intentional action! We’ve gotta heal and grow, together. And I’d commend to you, and encourage you in 3 ways to grow in your spiritual walk:

1. Ask God for the gift of the Fear of the Lord.

2. Each Day ask the Lord to reveal anything in you that displeases Him.

3. Fast and pray once or twice a week to declare your devotion to God.

As we heal and grow, Christ then calls us to serve others. And whenever we do good for someone, we gather wealth in heaven. It’s true. In the next life, there will be mansions for each of us, and based on the good deeds you did, you’ll be rewarded with treasure. Serving others is the great calling of every Christian, and I’d commend you to the example that Braxton sets. He’s out there multiple times each week, handing out gospel tracts, visiting hospitals & jails, leading Bible studies, praying and fasting, and sharing his testimony. You can do that too!

In conclusion:

Jesus is coming back very soon. And He is coming for a Holy church, a church without blemish or defect. If we are content to toil in sinful selfishness, we shouldn’t expect to share in any inheritance with Christ. Instead we’ll inherit the lake of fire. We need a deadly seriousness when it comes to how we follow Jesus. Like the church of Laodicea, we as men in recovery, men searching for hope, and a new future, we’re in need of God’s grace. But God willing, we will have open eyes that see God’s reality, garments of the forgiveness found in Christ, and hearts of holiness refined in the fire.